The Government have announced changes to the energy price guarantee from April 2023, as well as additional support for pensioners and those on benefits. The Government will work with consumer groups and industry to consider the best approach to consumer protection from April 2024 as part of wider retail market reforms.
Does the Minister agree that while subsidies are necessary short-term sticking plasters, investors will not commit the multi-billion pound investments that the energy sector needs to upgrade and modernise energy storage, generation and transmission unless the long-term rules are clear? Will he therefore update the Energy Bill to lay out a sustainable long-term future with investable deadlines and milestones to transition from today’s highly distorted, politicised and bureaucratic sector to a cheaper, simpler, better-value industry with much lower political and regulatory risks?
I am proud that this Government have led the way, with contracts for difference driving renewables such as offshore wind by driving down costs. I am also delighted that we have the legislative vehicle to deliver the necessary changes, and the Energy Security Bill will be taken forward in this Parliament to transform our energy industry by turbocharging carbon capture, utilisation and storage and our hydrogen industries in pioneering projects from the Humber to the Mersey, and beyond. The Bill will encourage competition in the energy sector, creating opportunity, prosperity and security with clean jobs, new skills and, as my hon. Friend rightly highlights, cheaper bills.
The Minister talks about long-term energy support. Will he bear in mind that, despite the promises made here today that everyone in the United Kingdom is already benefiting from short-term support, not one penny has been allocated to consumers in Northern Ireland, even though the electricity companies are ready and the utility regular has told him that the ground has been set. When will payments be made to people in Northern Ireland? We are looking not for promises tomorrow but for payments today.
The energy price guarantee is benefiting Northern Ireland consumers today, along with pensioners and vulnerable families—they are all being helped. Of course, energy policy is devolved to Northern Ireland, and we have had to step in because of the lack of an Executive. We are working very hard. I held a roundtable with energy suppliers only last week, and another one was held yesterday. We are doing everything within our power to find the right route, while protecting public money in the proper fashion, to get money out to Northern Ireland consumers this winter. We are doing everything for our part, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will support me in urging others to do the same.