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Energy Bills

Volume 545: debated on Thursday 17 May 2012

The Deputy Prime Minister recently announced an agreement with energy suppliers to ensure that all consumers have good information on their supplier’s best tariff. This builds on previous actions by the Government to help people to control their bills, and complements Ofgem’s proposals in the retail market review to protect consumers. We are also encouraging consumers to harness their collective purchasing powers.

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply. In my constituency, 6,563 over 75-year-olds would benefit by £200 a year from being put on the lowest tariff. I appreciate what the Government are doing, but many of those people are unable to access online facilities easily. What else can the Government do to ensure that they benefit from these measures?

Thanks to the deal that we have negotiated and that the Deputy Prime Minister has announced, those pensioners in the hon. Lady’s constituency will be written to every year by their energy supplier and advised of the best tariff for them. Furthermore, because of the warm home discount for which this Government have legislated, 600,000 of the poorest pensioners in the country are getting a direct discount of £120 off their energy bills. That is real action.

Will the Secretary of State commend the work of the Energy Saving Trust on reducing household bills? Will he also point it in the direction of reducing the cost of heating water, as a means of reducing overall energy costs, by heating only the water that a household needs to use each day?

My hon. Friend is right to pay tribute to the work of the Energy Saving Trust. It does a huge amount of work on providing information, advice and support to a whole range of people, particularly the most vulnerable, and I am sure that it will have heard her welcome comments.

If the Secretary of State is serious about the green deal, why will he not ensure that the energy companies have to put the 9,914 pensioners over the age of 75 in my constituency, and others around the country, on to the lowest tariff?

I think the hon. Gentleman is mixing up the green deal with the action that we are taking to help people with their consumer bills. The warm home discount, which targets the 600,000 poorest pensioners, is one of the most effective ways of providing that help. Under the scheme proposed by Labour, some of the wealthiest pensioners would get the discounts, and I am afraid that that shows that it is no longer the party of the many.

I very much welcome the move to ensure that the market works as efficiently as possible, so that consumers pay no more than is necessary. Should we not make it clear to consumers, however, given the amount of investment that needs to be made in our energy infrastructure, that future generations will have to pay a higher price to ensure that we can keep the lights on in a low-carbon way?

My hon. Friend is right to say that we face a big investment challenge in this country. That is why, in the Gracious Speech, Her Majesty announced that we would be legislating for electricity market reforms to bring forward that investment, but at the lowest possible cost.

People have real concerns about energy prices. They also have real concerns about the amalgamation of energy companies—be they electricity, gas or oil companies—and the control of prices that results from that. What assurances can the Minister give us that the Government will always be the protector of prices for the consumer?

The hon. Gentleman is right. Energy bills are a real concern for many households around the country. That is why we are taking the action we are. He refers to consolidation in the sector. That certainly happened under the last Government. What we are doing is trying to make sure we can get more competition into the sector. We have seen Ofgem’s proposals for dealing with liquidity in the wholesale markets, while the work I am leading on collective switching is intended to enable consumers to generate more competition. Competition is what we want to see.