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Domestic Energy Bills

Volume 536: debated on Thursday 1 December 2011

I am delighted to say, Mr Speaker, that I do have the answer to this question.

On 23 November, DECC published its updated assessment of the impact of energy and climate change policies on energy prices and bills. The latest estimates show that the average household dual fuel bill is currently 2% higher than it would have been if energy and climate change policies were not introduced. By 2020, these policies will mean that the average household dual fuel bill will be 7% lower than it would have been in the same year in the absence of our policies.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Would he be prepared to work with the Department for Communities and Local Government to see how the benefits of the discount schemes for people on low incomes could be extended to park homes, where the site owner is likely to buy in bulk and then resell, perhaps at quite a high price? To help the very vulnerable people in park homes, could there be a specific campaign to tell park home owners that they are eligible for the green deal?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. As a long-standing campaigner for people who live in park homes, she knows that they are far too often overlooked in schemes that benefit people who live in substantial and ordinary properties. It is crucial that we have the dialogue that she asks for to ensure that we help those people as far as we can. There are obviously practical issues that we need to address. We will try to get to the bottom of this.

The Minister may not know that Huddersfield has a twinning arrangement with Stoke-on-Trent and that we work very closely together. People in Huddersfield, like the people in Dorset and Stoke-on-Trent, are sick to death of the cost of energy. They want a more visible, muscular effort from this Government to take on the energy companies, many of which are foreign-owned, and make them do their job.

I am sure that Mr Speaker is aware of Yorkshire’s unilateral declaration of independence, which allows twinning arrangements to be entered into between towns in Yorkshire and towns elsewhere in the country.

The hon. Gentleman made a serious point about energy costs. I assure him that we are doing more than was done under the Government whom he supported for 13 years to make this market as competitive as possible. We have just had the Ofgem retail review and its proposals to simplify the tariffs dramatically to make things much easier for consumers. We have introduced a clear limit on the period in which the energy companies have to switch people over. We are doing everything we can to make this a competitive market, at both the retail end and the wholesale end. That is the best guarantee for every consumer in this country, be they in Huddersfield or Stoke-on-Trent, that they will get the best possible deal.

Will the Secretary of State work with colleagues to establish a cost of warmth index, which could usefully inform the work of his Department, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Treasury and Parliament?

That is an interesting thought and I would certainly be interested to see more from the hon. Gentleman about this issue. I can see practical difficulties, given that warmth comes from so many different sources. For example, people who are off-gas grid and are reliant on heating oil may have substantially different problems from those who are on-gas grid and are able to avail themselves of a number of things. I would certainly be prepared to look at the idea if the hon. Gentleman put something on paper and sent it over.