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Social Tariffs

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 22 November 2007

1. What recent assessment he has made of the potential contribution of social tariffs to the reduction of fuel poverty in North-West Leicestershire. (166782)

We have made no assessment of the individual contribution that social tariffs have made in specific locations. However, following publication of the energy White Paper, we continue to work closely with Ofgem and energy suppliers to analyse the range of social programmes—including tariffs—that suppliers currently offer, in order to draw out best practice and highlight where improvements are needed. Across Great Britain, about 700,000 households are on social tariffs, rebates or trust funds.

The numbers in fuel poverty have doubled since 2003, but can be dramatically reduced if suppliers implement in a meaningful way the energy White Paper challenge to offer social tariffs to their fuel-poor customers. Does the Minister agree that the upcoming energy Bill should give Ofgem reserve powers to require a minimum standard for social tariffs, to avoid the situation in which some Scrooge suppliers backtrack on voluntary commitments and dilute their initiatives to the meagre penny-pinching level of those who offer the least?

We recognise that after years of progress in reducing the number of households affected by fuel poverty, the numbers are now increasing because of rising energy costs, which are, of course, a global phenomenon. I have met all the chief executives of the major supply companies to talk about the importance of social tariffs. Some companies are doing well and others are now moving in the right direction. We are keen that social tariffs—alongside social policies such as energy efficiency programmes and the winter fuel payment—should play a full part in tackling fuel poverty.