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Fuel Poverty

Volume 503: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2010

8. What discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive on steps to assist households in Scotland in severe fuel poverty which are not connected to the mains gas grid. (309556)

May I urge the Minister to rectify that? If people use heating oil to heat their homes, their fuel is likely to be more expensive so it costs more to pay the bills. Those people are more likely to be in fuel poverty and at the end of the queue to apply for measures to help insulate the home. Is not one of the lessons of this cold spell that help should be directed at the homes that need it most, which means that people who use heating oil should be at the front of the queue, and not at the back of it? [Interruption.]

There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber, which is very discourteous both to the Member asking the question and to the Minister answering it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This Government have done more than any other in recent history to do more about fuel poverty. In 2007 alone, the winter fuel payment took 200,000 households throughout the UK out of fuel poverty, and we are determined to tackle the problem even further through the new Energy Bill and take a further 100,000 pensioner households in Scotland out of poverty. We are certainly not complacent, although we see no irregularity in the non-oil—gas and electric—fuel market, which might otherwise cause us to consider regulation at this point. However, we will certainly keep these issues under review.

The Scottish house conditions survey shows that those who do not have access to mains gas are twice as likely to be in fuel poverty as those who do have such access. The Secretary of State mentioned earlier the importance of cold weather payments. Given the current situation, will the Minister press her ministerial colleagues to extend and increase those payments to other vulnerable groups?

The cold weather payments are triggered by the temperature and Scotland has, of course, benefited more than other parts of the UK because of its geographical location. It is this Government who increased the cold weather payment in September 2008 from £8.25 a week to £25 a week—an increase of over 300 per cent.—so I certainly do not think that there has been any complacency on the Government’s part.