Energy bills are a real concern, so we are helping households with them in three ways: direct financial help, energy efficiency measures and increased competition. Direct financial help includes the warm home discount, the winter fuel allowance and cold weather payments. Energy efficiency measures are delivered in a variety of ways, but especially through the energy company obligation and the green deal. Our relentless focus on increasing competition ranges from Ofgem’s retail market review to our focus on new suppliers and making switching quicker and easier.
In July 2012, off-grid fuel was selling for as low as 56p per litre, but by December the price was as much as 65p per litre, so a pensioner couple with an average 1,800-litre tank of oil in their garden could have saved £150 if they had bought in July. To put it another way: their winter fuel payment was half wiped out by December. Will the Secretary of State bring forward early payment of winter fuel payments for pensioners on off-grid energy?
We have been working extremely hard and the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon) in particular has been leading the work to promote the “buy early” campaign so that consumers can buy oil when it is available at a lower price. Moreover, we have a six-monthly round-table with the industry to make sure we are doing everything we can.
The hon. Gentleman asked about winter fuel payments and he will know that they are a matter for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. We are working with the Department for Work and Pensions and other Departments on the fuel poverty strategy, and that issue and others will be dealt with as part of those discussions.