We have reaffirmed our commitment to help hard-pressed families this winter with support for energy bills. We have introduced a range of measures to help those families, including capping energy bills at £3,000 this year and £2,500 next year.
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has called for an immediate ban on the installation of prepayment meters made under court warrants, because of fears that energy suppliers are using them to disconnect the poorest and most indebted customers by the back door, and it claims that transferring households to prepayment meters often prompts people in debt to self-disconnect. Citizens Advice said that an extra 450,000 people could be switched to prepayment meters by the end of the year because of debt, and a record number of people could not afford to top-up their prepayment meters—the eighth time that record has been broken in the past nine months. This is a crisis made in Downing Street, and it is having a grave impact on a growing number of the most vulnerable households in my constituency and across the country. What will the Chancellor do to support people in that grave situation?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue. There are 4.1 million people across the country on prepayment meters, and the Ofgem energy price cap covers all prepayment meter customers and ensures that they pay a fair price for their energy. Licence conditions require energy suppliers to provide extra support for those customers because, as the hon. Gentleman said, we recognise how vulnerable they are. We will continue to monitor the situation over the months ahead, because we are aware of the extreme vulnerabilities of that group.
A great number of my constituents who live in park home sites such as Willowgrove park in Knott End-on-Sea or Smithy Park in Winmarleigh, as well as boat dwellers on the Galgate marina, are concerned about their energy bills but seem to have been forgotten about by the Government. When is the £400 payment of support likely to be made to people in park homes and on boats, and what support will be available from April onwards?
I have heard from many voluntary groups in Warrington South, including organisations, such as the Scouts and Guides, that provide important extra-curricular activities for young people’s development, especially after the impact of the pandemic on their education and wellbeing. What steps are the Government taking to support charity and voluntary organisations, many of which have seen their energy costs increase by five times over the past year?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for standing up for businesses and charities in Warrington, as he always does so ably. As he knows, this winter the energy business relief scheme is providing £18 billion of support for businesses and charities, and early in the new year we will announce how that support will continue after April. I reassure my hon. Friend that we are particularly concerned about the impact on charities, which see their costs go up but without a corresponding ability to increase their income.
I wish you, Mr Speaker, your team and the Treasury team a merry Christmas. Has the Chancellor had a chance to read the Treasury Committee’s report, published last week, about the welcome that we give to the cost of living support that he has announced for next winter? Did he also note our points about the potential cliff edges in that £900 support, and the recommendations we made to spread those payments more evenly over the course of next winter?
I wish my hon. Friend and all members of the Treasury Committee a merry Christmas. I have read a summary of their report, but I have saved the entire document for my Christmas reading, and I am immensely looking forward to that. The most important thing is that we are offering extra support for people who are vulnerable—support that amounts to £13 billion next year—and that comes before the support with people’s energy bills and a lot of other measures. My hon. Friend makes a very important point about cliff edges, which we will reflect on carefully.