18. What plans his Department has to reduce energy costs for (a) low-income and (b) other consumers. (98676)
We are committed to helping people, especially those in low-income, vulnerable households, to heat their homes more affordably. We are helping about 2 million low-income households through the warm home discount scheme this year. In October, we announced the joint “Check, Switch, Insulate to Save” campaign to help all consumers save money this winter. We are also looking to help consumers harness their collective purchasing power.
I thank the Minister for his response. As the real value of wages stagnates and unemployment increases, energy prices are a real problem for people in my constituency, particularly those on low incomes. Dundee Labour party has pledged to negotiate a 20% reduction in energy prices if it is elected to lead the council in May. I ask the Government to take the lead from Dundee Labour party and do everything that they can to reduce energy prices, so that those on low incomes do not have to make the awful choice between eating and heating.
I would be more than happy to have a meeting with the people from the hon. Gentleman’s constituency in Dundee to understand more about the scheme that they are putting forward. As he will be aware, last year gas prices were, on average, 30% higher worldwide than the year before and oil prices peaked at their highest ever level in sterling just last week. Global prices have been going up and we therefore need to find new, imaginative ways of helping consumers. Such collective purchasing agreements can be an important way of reassuring people and of ensuring that they get the best deal. I would be delighted to meet those people.
Patience rewarded; I call Mr Robert Halfon.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Government define fuel poverty as a person spending a tenth of their income on fuel. Motorists in Harlow who are on average earnings spend a tenth of their income on petrol and diesel costs. Does that not mean that motorists on low and average earnings are facing fuel poverty? Will the Government do everything that they can to continue down the path set by the Chancellor in the last Budget, and reduce the cost of petrol and diesel at the pumps?
My hon. Friend makes a point that will resonate across the House. Members of Parliament from every constituency, be they urban or rural, are very concerned about this issue. As I said, oil prices peaked at their highest ever levels in sterling last week. We are therefore facing a global issue. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has been listening actively to what is being expressed on this issue and will make further announcements in the Budget.