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Rural Energy Costs

Volume 571: debated on Thursday 28 November 2013

The Government have worked with industry to co-ordinate the “Buy oil early” campaign, which I launched in September, and to provide guidance on setting up or joining oil-buying groups. We also provide assistance to the most vulnerable consumers via the warm home discount, winter fuel payments and cold weather payments.

Will the Minister bear in mind that those of us who live in the countryside very often live in old houses with solid or rubble-built walls, and very often in areas of water incursion? We cannot benefit from dual fuel tariffs, and we often rely on liquefied petroleum gas or fuel oil, which is cripplingly expensive. May I just remind him that people in rural areas have no ambition to be cold, damp and forgotten?

I assure my hon. Friend that those people have certainly not been forgotten. We have particularly addressed the issue of off-grid customers through publicising the adoption of a code of conduct so that petroleum suppliers treat their customers fairly. Ofgem is considering whether heating oil is properly covered by its consumer protection measures. We are working with the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group to improve the information available on vulnerable customers so that all the different agencies better understand where those customers live.

I thank the Minister for his comments. Is he aware that there are constituencies such as mine that are regarded as urban areas, but that contain substantial rural areas? The people in those rural areas are sometimes overlooked in this regard.

I understand that. My hon. Friend is a great champion of his constituents, whether urban or rural. There are off-grid consumers in suburban and more urban areas. We treat all consumers equally. I encourage him to look at the guide to keeping warm this winter that the Secretary of State has sent to all Members on how we can best promote such matters in our constituency.