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Energy: Fees and Charges

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what steps the Government are taking to assist pensioners and vulnerable adults with rising energy costs; (202028)

(2) what steps the Government are taking to work with energy companies to minimise the effects of rising fuel bills for low income families, pensioners and vulnerable adults;

(3) what steps the Government plan to take to minimise further rises in energy costs.

[holding answer 30 April 2008]: We are concerned about the impact of higher prices on vulnerable people and we continue to encourage energy suppliers to adopt initiatives to restrict price rises for the most vulnerable.

In Budget 2008, the Government said they would like to see the amount energy suppliers spend on social programmes increase to at least £150 million a year over the period ahead. A new voluntary agreement has recently been signed individually with the six major energy suppliers to treble their individual investment on social programmes in the next three years, reaching collective investment of £150 million by 2010-11. This will take spend to £100 million in 2008-09, £125 million in 2009-10 and £150 million in 2010-11.

In addition, winter fuel payments helped keep 11.7 million people warm in winter 2006-07 and Budget 2008 announced an additional one-off payment of £100 to over-80s households and £50 to over-60s households in 2008-09.

The Government do not interfere in commercial pricing decisions in the energy supply markets which are competitive markets. Ofgem’s analysis suggests that recent energy price rises are due mainly to global demand for fossil fuels pushing up wholesale prices. The UK gas market is increasingly influenced by continental gas markets and the Government are supporting the European Commission’s efforts to improve competition in those markets.

Increased gas storage can help to protect the UK gas market from price shocks. The Government are taking steps to improve and streamline the regulatory regimes for constructing gas storage facilities through the Planning and Energy Bills, now before Parliament.