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Fuel Poverty

Volume 541: debated on Thursday 8 March 2012

Between 2004 and 2009 the number of households in fuel poverty rose from 2 million to 5.5 million across the UK. The Department will publish the 2012 annual report on fuel poverty statistics on 17 May. It will show the actual level of fuel poverty in 2010 for England and the UK, and projected levels for England in 2011 and 2012.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He may be aware that our Labour administration in Glasgow city council has introduced the winter warmth dividend, giving every 80-year-old £100 to help them with their winter fuel bills, so making up for the cut madeby this Government to the winter fuel allowance. Will he join me in congratulating Glasgow city council on protecting the most vulnerable and not cutting the support they get, as this Government have?

On the contrary, this Government are massively increasing the support for the fuel poor. For example, our warm home discount will reach far more households than the previous Government’s plan. I welcome any measure to help tackle fuel poverty, but, fundamentally, we are going to do that by retrofitting the homes of the fuel poor and improving the fabric of those homes, rather than just handing out more money to try to keep up with ever-rising fossil fuel prices.

What may be the impact on fuel poverty of EU regulations closing down coal-generating capacity, for instance with E.ON’s announcement today that the facility at Kingsnorth, in my constituency, will close by March next year?

We are not expecting any impact as a result of that. Obviously, there is a constant need for a new generation of technologies to emerge. What we want, both for the fuel poor and for this country’s energy security, is a broad mix of fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear. We think that that is the best route forward.

When the previous Labour Government left office, 1 million fewer households were living in fuel poverty than in 1997. The Tory Government have scrapped Warm Front, the carbon emissions reduction target, the community energy saving programme and social tariffs, and they have cut the winter fuel allowance. As a result, the level of fuel poverty has risen from one in five households to one in four. The Minister, who is responsible for tackling climate change, has said that the energy company obligation would deliver far more for the fuel poor than any measure introduced by Labour, yet the Government’s own figures show that, in a best-case scenario, the ECO will lift just half a million homes out of fuel poverty. With energy bills at record levels, why are the Government turning their back on the fuel poor?

It is ridiculous for the hon. Lady to pretend that the number of fuel poor did not rise from 2004 to 2009 from 2 million to 5.5 million. It would be good, on this really important subject, if, rather than trying to score cheap partisan points, we could build a new consensus. We are bringing forward some very important measures on fuel poverty and we are determined to really make a difference.