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Energy Company Obligation

Volume 528: debated on Thursday 19 May 2011

3. How much funding he expects to be made available to households in fuel poverty through the energy company obligation in its first year of operation. (56253)

The ECO is being designed specifically to tackle fuel poverty and hard-to-treat homes. Although it is too early to set exact numbers for the scheme ahead of our consultation on the ECO in autumn I fully expect a far greater level of resource to be brought to bear on the fuel-poor than was previously the case under the carbon emissions reduction target or Warm Front.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Parts of Blaenau Gwent are 1,200 feet above sea level and it gets cold in winter. Given the established relationship between excess winter deaths and low indoor temperature, and given that the UK has a higher rate of such deaths than Scandinavian countries, will he ensure that the ECO prioritises a reduction in excess winter deaths?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. As I also sit on the Cabinet Office’s Public Health Sub-Committee, I am very aware of the issue he raises. That is why we are absolutely clear that the ECO must be focused on the fuel-poor and hard-to-treat homes and why we must have an impact on exactly the statistic that he mentions in relation to his constituency.

We have just heard twice from the Minister that the ECO will be used specifically to tackle hard-to-treat homes and fuel poverty, but unfortunately this week we have heard worrying rumours that the ECO will not be used exclusively to tackle fuel poverty and hard-to-treat homes. Consumer Focus recently estimated that to tackle just over a third of non-cavity-wall homes in the UK would require an ECO investment of more than £7 billion. That underlines the scale of the challenge that the ECO needs to meet. Will the Minister guarantee today that the ECO will be used only to tackle fuel poverty and hard-to-treat homes and not to subsidise banks providing green deal finance?

I do not think I could be clearer than to say that the focus of this new measure, unlike the CERT programme brought in by the previous Government, which we had to reform considerably when we came to office, will be on fuel poverty and hard-to-treat homes. We are absolutely clear about that and the measure is going to be much more effective than any measure that the Labour party introduced.