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Fuel Poverty

Volume 538: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2012

6. What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the effects of fuel poverty on health. (88271)

I and my officials have worked closely with the Department of Energy and Climate Change on the development and implementation of the cold weather plan for England, which aims to reduce the health impacts of cold weather on vulnerable people. We have also put £30 million into the warm homes healthy people fund to fund local authority projects to reduce the impact of cold weather.

The Marmot report confirmed that cold homes are bad for our health. My local newspaper has highlighted the case of a low-income working family who have to choose between food and heat every day, with no help from their energy provider. Will the Minister ensure that energy companies do more to tackle fuel poverty, so that the NHS does not have to foot the bill for their profit?

As I said, my colleagues in DECC are working closely with the energy companies. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that this coalition Government are the first to put in place the cold weather plan to reduce those 27,000 excess winter deaths. Perhaps his local paper would like to contact the Welsh Assembly Government to see what they are doing.

Fuel poverty clearly shows the link between housing, health care and well-being. Last week, the Prime Minister called for a merger of health and social care. Does the Minister agree with me that if we are to have a true merger of health and social care, housing—through health and wellbeing boards and other mechanisms—has to be a key ingredient of that?

Of course, my hon. Friend is absolutely right that the integration of health and social care is critical, particularly for issues such as this. The changes we are making to public health and the movement of public health into local authorities will only ensure better integration, so that we can reduce those 27,000 excess deaths.