Skip to main content

Household Bills

Volume 566: debated on Thursday 11 July 2013

We have a range of initiatives to help households with their energy bills. From our proposals to get consumers on to the cheapest tariffs and the provision of nearly £1 million for the big energy saving network, to the green deal, and from the warm home discount to our promotion of collective switching, this Government are working to help households keep their energy bills down.

Those schemes are supposed to help people such as my constituent Miss Kaur, who lives in a badly insulated home. She is in fuel poverty, but her energy supplier will not help with insulation. It also seems that the energy suppliers in general are not using carbon emission reduction obligation money at all. There is a gap between what fuel-poor households such as hers can afford on green deal finance and what it will cost to do the work. Will the Secretary of State look at the detail of her situation and perhaps agree to meet her with me, so that he can tell her and me how those schemes will help to reduce her energy bills and improve the insulation of her home?

If the hon. Gentleman wants to write to me, we can first look at the details before we consider whether any meeting is required, because we might be able to help his constituent more quickly. He will know that part of the energy company obligation is for affordable warmth for people in fuel poverty. I do not know whether that would apply in her case, but if he writes to me with all the details, we will look at them very thoroughly.

Thousands of pensioners in my constituency would be up to £200 a year better off if the Government adopted Labour’s plan to put all over-75s on the cheapest tariff. The Energy Bill will not become law until next year, when the Government say they will put everyone on the cheapest tariff, but why not act now to help 4 million pensioners with their energy bills this winter?

I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman’s argument. The proposals that we have put forward in the Energy Bill, working with Ofgem, apply to everybody, not just to a part of the population. We want to get benefits for everybody in our society. He says that he will have to wait for Royal Assent for the Energy Bill. He is not right about that: Ofgem is proceeding apace with its consultations for tariff reforms. The Energy Bill aims to support and strengthen that, in case there was any foot dragging by the energy companies, so actually we are acting very quickly—much more quickly than under the proposal he puts forward.

One of the ways we can help the millions of households struggling with an average dual-fuel bill of £1,400 a year—up £300 since 2010—is through energy efficiency. However, less than 1% of households that have had a green deal assessment have so far gone on to take out a green deal package. Will the Secretary of State explain to the House why?

The hon. Lady will know that an awful lot of people are using ECO—the energy company obligation. She did not mention that there are more than 82,000 insulations under the energy company obligation scheme, which shows that we are taking measures. On the green deal, she will also know that these are relatively early days. We have had more than 38,000 assessments. One would not have expected many plans to have been written by now. What she also fails to the tell the House is that some people are funding the green deal package through ECO or self-finance, and it is difficult to get exact figures on that. I would have thought that she would want to support the green deal, as it has the potential to transform energy efficiency.

It is because the previous Labour Government piloted a pay-as-you-save scheme that we want to see the green deal work. We are trying to hold the Government to account. We want to see 14 million homes insulated by 2020, and with the current trajectory that will not happen. I am very disappointed with the Secretary of State’s answer. The Government said that the green deal would be the largest retrofit programme the country has ever seen, but fewer homes are installing insulation since the green deal launched. Thousands of insulation workers throughout the country have lost their jobs, with some estimates putting the figure as high as one in four. This is a disaster for our economy. What is the Secretary of State doing about it?

I have to say that I do not recognise the hon. Lady’s points. If one looks at what has happened in the insulation industry, one will see that there was a boom at the end of last year as people worked hard to meet their carbon emissions reduction target obligations to avoid fines. That was the biggest boom we have seen, so the figure was likely to come down, and it would be good if the Opposition admitted that. We are taking huge measures that will transform things not just for a year, but over decades. The problem will take decades to sort out. We are putting the measures in place to do that.

Order. The hon. Gentleman came into the House 30 years ago. Question 8; we are grateful to the hon. Gentleman.