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Energy Bill

Volume 533: debated on Thursday 20 October 2011

I thank the Minister for that answer, but I still do not understand what he is going to do to prevent people from dying this winter. Will he also urge the Government to reconsider the decision to cut the winter fuel allowance?

As the hon. Lady well knows, the winter fuel allowance was introduced by the last Government. Had it not been for the fact that—as one of her colleagues who was then a Minister pointed out—there was no money left, we might have been able to consider some of these matters further. However, we have implemented the policy of the last Labour Administration, and in the meantime we are trying to ensure that people check their bills for accuracy, insulate their homes, and look for better arrangements to which they might switch. That makes evident sense, because it can bring significant benefits, and it should not be dismissed, because it will help many of the hon. Lady’s constituents.

What has been done for customers with prepayment meters and keys? Their bills are more expensive per unit, and as they are not sent a bill there are limited opportunities for the energy companies to communicate with them, and so little choice is offered to them.

There is evidence, which Ofgem is gathering, that people on prepayment meters are paying less now than they were in the past. One reason we have been keen to take forward the smart meter programme is to ensure that people get absolute accuracy in their billing. That programme is furthest advanced in Northern Ireland, and people on prepayment meters there pay less than people on normal tariffs.