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Fuel Poverty

Volume 515: debated on Thursday 16 September 2010

4. What recent steps he has taken to ensure that energy companies provide greater assistance to vulnerable people in meeting their energy bills. (15496)

I recently announced the extension of the energy companies’ carbon emissions reduction target to December 2012, which will provide a greater focus on helping low-income vulnerable households. Additionally, we expect up to 250,000 poor pensioner households to receive an £80 rebate from the six major energy supply companies through the current energy rebate scheme, and we are hard at work ensuring that a focus on fuel poverty is a key feature of the green deal.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. As more than one in three pensioners live in fuel poverty, will he follow Labour’s lead and ensure that all energy suppliers have a mandatory social tariff?

On the social tariff, I congratulate the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) on the powers introduced in the Energy Act 2010. We can use that important set of powers to try to alleviate these problems. The Department’s approach, most fundamentally, is to try to deal with the causes of the problem, not merely to use sticking plaster on the symptoms. The key thing is to identify those in fuel poverty and ensure that they have the energy-efficiency measures in place to make sure that they do not get into fuel poverty in future. With social price support we can help for one year, but if we get the energy-efficiency measures right, we help for ever.

On the Severn barrage, the Bristol channel has the second highest rise and fall of tide in the world. Are the Government also examining tidal pools?

Order. We are talking about help for vulnerable people in meeting their energy bills, so we have to stick to that.

I am sure the Secretary of State agrees that if we are to move to a green economy, we have to do so in a way that is fair, so can he confirm that he is making representations to the Treasury to keep the Warm Front scheme which, as he knows, is a successful scheme that has helped 2 million of the most vulnerable fuel poor?

As the hon. Lady knows, the Warm Front scheme has played a very important part in ensuring that there has been an improvement in energy efficiency for many of the people who are most vulnerable to fuel poverty. We will ensure that there continues to be a commitment that the scheme will continue but, as she will know from previous questions, our key focus—the key instrument—in dealing with fuel poverty and energy efficiency will be the green deal. A very important part of the green deal will be tackling fuel poverty and, over time, it will gradually take on a more important role and the Warm Front scheme will take on a lesser one.