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Fuel Poverty

Volume 543: debated on Wednesday 18 April 2012

7. What steps are being taken by the Government and the Office of Fair Trading to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland. (102892)

The Secretary of State chaired the first ever annual summit in Scotland on fuel poverty, bringing together the heads of the big six energy companies and Scottish consumer groups. That led to suppliers providing information to improve the application of key policies in Scotland, such as the warm home discount scheme. I am convening a follow-up meeting soon to review progress.

Does the Minister agree that the problem of a lack of competition in the availability and provision of heating oil in the Scottish border region needs addressing urgently?

I represent a large rural constituency in the Scottish borders, so I certainly share my hon. Friend’s concerns, although I understand that in his constituency there are some innovative initiatives whereby communities are coming together to purchase heating oil and are therefore able to negotiate better prices with suppliers.

As well as pressing the Office of Fair Trading, will the Minister press his own Cabinet colleagues to look at providing practical help, for example by bringing forward the pensioners’ winter fuel allowance for off-grid consumers to allow them to fill up their tanks before winter hits, when prices tend to be lower?

The off-grid issue is of concern in rural Scotland, as elsewhere, and I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss his concerns.