I regularly engage with stakeholders such as energy companies and consumer organisations to discuss our policies to assist low-income and vulnerable households to heat their homes more affordably. I recently had interesting discussions with Professor John Hills, the author of the fuel poverty review.
I thank the Secretary of State for his response. One way of reducing fuel poverty is through providing more support to lower-income families to make their homes more energy-efficient. I appreciate that the Government’s proposed energy company obligations seek to do that, but I ask the Secretary of State for an update on his Department’s progress in creating those obligations, and will he tell us when he hopes they will come into effect?
My hon. Friend is right. A key focus of the energy company obligation will be on householders who cannot achieve significant energy savings without an additional measure of support. That will include, through the affordable warmth target, specific assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable people to help them keep their homes warm affordably. We are consulting this autumn on secondary legislation for the green deal and the ECO, as I have said in answer to colleagues before, and we intend to launch them in autumn 2012.
I welcome the Government’s support for Labour’s motion yesterday, which said:
“with a cold winter forecast and Government support cut, millions of families will struggle to heat their homes”.—[Official Report, 19 October 2011; Vol. 533, c. 1006.]
I am glad that the Secretary of State agrees with that. What is he going to do about it this winter?
The right hon. Lady should be aware that under the warm home discount scheme—a statutory scheme, not a voluntary grace-and-favour one of the sort operated by the Labour Government—we will be providing substantial support to 600,000 particularly vulnerable key pensioners. That amounts to £120 off their bills, and is a two-thirds increase on what was available under the voluntary scheme operated by the previous Government.
I understand that the benefit of the warm home discount is less than the profits that the energy companies make. Yesterday, Government Members also supported our demand
“that energy companies use their profits to help reduce bills this winter.”—[Official Report, 19 October 2011; Vol. 533, c. 1007.]
How and when will the Secretary of State make that happen?
On Monday, at the energy summit, we discussed with the energy companies exactly how they could help, and there are a number of ways in which they are doing that. For example, they have made a voluntary commitment, which they will implement this winter, to state in every bill whether cheaper tariffs are available, to provide energy-saving advice and to promote the “check, switch, insulate to save” campaign, which I hope will—with the right hon. Lady’s backing, I am sure—be a great success.