Making households more energy efficient is the surest and safest way to reduce energy bills. Thanks to the energy companies obligation and green deal schemes, more than 1 million homes have been made more energy efficient, helping households stay permanently warmer for less. In Luton North, more than 2,726 households have been helped by ECO alone, which is nearly the twice the national average in respect of households.
The truth is that millions of low-income families are still living in poorly insulated and cold homes, and paying very high fuel bills. Cuts to the energy companies obligation have meant that nearly half a million fewer households will receive vital upgrades to make their homes warmer and cheaper to heat, and, in any case, half of that budget goes to households that are not in poverty. Have this Government’s policies not been a failure, leaving millions of families too cold in their homes, struggling to pay heating bills and in need of a Labour Government to make their lives better?
I do not share the hon. Gentleman’s interpretation. Fuel poverty under this Government has gone down. The changes to the ECO specifically took £50 off the bill, but reserved the amount that was to help the vulnerable and those on low incomes. So we have continued to focus on low-income and vulnerable people, to ensure that they are the first households to be made warmer for less.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to address this matter. The fact is we have very tough consumer protection in this area. One in 10 have been struck off, but that is not necessarily to do with any criminal behaviour; it is to do with their not engaging properly with the certification process. It is because we have a tough certification process, which is in line with other organisations’ arrangements, that some have been struck off in order to protect the consumer better.
I share my hon. Friend’s views on this issue. Some products do use far less electricity than others, and of course saving energy is the best way to save on people’s household bills. I am happy to say that the EU product regulations have been helpful in implementing this and we will continue to be able to do that.
The Minister will know that rural homes are often some of the worst in terms of energy efficiency. The renewable heat obligation should help with that. Unfortunately, I have encountered constituents who have installed a wood-burning boiler and been granted the renewable heat incentive payments, only to have them removed later on the spurious grounds that the boiler may be able to burn logs as well as pellets. Is that not illogical?