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Fuel Poverty

Volume 560: debated on Thursday 14 March 2013

We have in place the green deal and the energy company obligation, which we expect to provide support for at least 230,000 low-income and vulnerable households each year. In addition, our warm home discount scheme supports 2 million households in total, and this winter has already helped more than 1 million of the poorest pensioners. We also make cold weather payments and winter fuel payments.

The previous Government and this Government have a good record of working with energy companies to try to help vulnerable people. Could more be done, particularly for disabled pensioners who own their own home?

My hon. Friend is right and I am sure more could be done. That is why we designed the green deal and the ECO to be flexible and responsive to the needs of a range of energy consumers, particularly the fuel-poor. If my hon. Friend has any particular ideas on that, I would be happy to discuss them with him.

Will the Minister provide an update on the Government’s plans to publish a refreshed strategy for tackling fuel poverty this year?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; the Government are committed to bringing new ambition and vision to tackling fuel poverty. The last fuel poverty strategy was published 10 years ago, and we will be coming forward this year with an ambitious strategy, pulling together all strands of policy and building on the latest evidence and creative thinking in that area. I would welcome my hon. Friend’s input, given his knowledge and experience in the area.

I make my usual declaration of indirect interests. All MPs will be aware of the effect of fuel poverty on our constituents. A housing association in my constituency is trying desperately to upgrade its properties, which are in an appalling condition. It has fallen foul of the vested interest of a financial investment company which is the latest owner of the freehold for those properties. The company wants only to make a fast buck and is not prepared to renegotiate the contract, but in the meantime my constituents are suffering from bad health and an inability to pay their fuel bills. What can the Department do to help tackle those vested interests?

The hon. Lady is right and has a real point. The leasehold-freehold issue is one of the knottiest to tackle and has eluded successive Governments. I would be happy to sit down with her and look at that specific case to work out what more we can do to help the sorts of tenants to whom she refers.

Will the Minister confirm that, even by his own contentious estimates purporting that thanks to his measures the average effect of reduced energy use will offset the increase due to green levies, taxes and subsidies, two-thirds of households will be worse off? Since giving those figures, the Government’s estimates of savings from energy-saving measures have been reduced.

I am afraid I just do not agree with my right hon. Friend, despite his considerable experience and knowledge of the sector. None of us knows for sure whose forecasts are right, and we will not know until the time. A great deal of uncertainty is attached to all forecasts, but the latest Government forecasts to 2020 show that consumers will be better off due to our policies.