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Fuel Poverty

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what criteria underpin his Department’s definition of fuel poverty; what public surveys his Department and its predecessor have conducted of the extent and impact of fuel poverty; which 10 parliamentary constituencies contain the highest number of fuel poor; and what plans he has to increase public access to resources to combat fuel poverty. (226252)

A household is said to be in fuel poverty if it needs to spend more than 10 per cent. of its income on fuel to maintain an adequate level of warmth (usually defined as 21 degrees for the main living area, and 18 degrees for other occupied rooms). This broad definition of fuel costs also includes modelled spending on water heating, lights, appliances and cooking.

The survey that provides the source data for modelling fuel poverty is the English Housing Survey (known as the English House Conditions Survey to 2008), conducted by Communities and Local Government (CLG). The survey data is modelled and combined with prices to produce energy costs and incomes, the main variables of the fuel poverty ratio.

Annual progress reports on the Fuel Poverty Strategy, the 2008 version of which was recently published:

gives more information on progress tackling, and the impact of, fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty is not calculated at a parliamentary constituency level.

The Government already have a range of measures in place to help tackle fuel poverty, and on 11 September the Prime Minister announced an ambitious new £1 billion National Home Energy Saving Programme to help domestic consumers cut their energy bills permanently. Within this, we are expanding the existing obligation on energy suppliers to install energy efficiency measures in households. This will mean a further £560 million energy supplier investment in British housing, to save energy and to reduce bills to households. 40 per cent. of these measures have to be installed in a priority group of low income and elderly households.

In addition the Government will consult on legislation for a new £350 million obligation on energy suppliers and electricity generators to undertake community-based energy efficiency measures. Other measures in the package include a £74 million increase to the budget for Warm Front (the Government scheme in England, offering insulation, heating and energy efficiency measures to low income and pensioner households on eligible benefits); and an increase in cold weather payments this winter from £8.50 to £25 a week. To make sure people across the country can take advantage of the help on offer and save as much money as possible, a national TV, press and online social marketing campaign is publicising what help is available.