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Energy Bills

Volume 750: debated on Tuesday 21 May 2024

The price cap has fallen by 60% since the start of last year, and the Government are taking a comprehensive approach to bring down future energy bills for consumers. That includes reforming electricity markets to make them more effective, investing across the energy system to make it smarter, and investing in energy efficiency to reduce costs for households.

I thank the Minister for her answer, but I want her to understand that for constituents such as mine in Romford energy prices are becoming completely unaffordable, and the Government need to do more. My constituents are also very concerned about the cost of net zero, and we need to know what that will cost them in years to come. Surely the Government need to take the British people with them on these policies, but at present there is a great deal of scepticism.

That is certainly one of the Department’s aims. We are very conscious that we must get that energy security while also helping all the vulnerable households—and non-domestic businesses—that need our support.

A significant number of households in my constituency who are experiencing the continued impact of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and unrest in the middle east have received help in the form of the Government’s cost of living support payments. Those payments are welcome, but does the Minister agree that this important support should continue, along with more information about the help that is available and how to gain access to it?

My hon. Friend is a great champion for his constituents, and of course I agree with him about the importance of ensuring that householders know where to obtain information about what they may be able to receive, especially as we are providing them with £108 billion between 2022 and 2025. I recommend that they visit the Help for Households web page on to find out what support they may be entitled to.

Many rural properties on the Welsh borders—including those in Clwyd South and in neighbouring north Shropshire—are not connected to mains gas and therefore use oil or liquefied petroleum gas for heating, and many of the residents are unaware of the support that is available to help with their energy bills. Can the Minister tell the House what support the Government are providing for those residents?

My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. We are, of course, helping all those households. The Government supported about 3 million households using alternative fuels with the £200 alternative fuel payments in the winter of 2022-23, and although energy prices, including alternative fuel costs, have fallen significantly since then, we are nevertheless committed to supporting all households with that £108 billion package between 2022 and 2025.

I have just had some solar panels fitted to my roof and I am pleased to report that they are reducing my bills, but what more are the Government doing to encourage people to produce their own electricity by means of renewables, in order to reduce the pull on the grid and also reduce bills?

I am delighted to hear that my hon. Friend has had those solar panels fitted. She will be interested to hear that the Government are considering options to facilitate low-cost finance from retail lenders to help households with the up-front costs of installation, and to drive rooftop deployment and energy efficiency measures.

I know of too many cases in which people whose properties are connected to heat networks are paying extremely high energy bills. I welcome the Department’s response to the consultation on heat networks, but the Energy Act 2023 only allows for Secretaries of State to introduce a price cap, at their discretion. Some of my constituents are paying bills that are 13 times the level of the cap. Will the Minister consider a mandatory cap to ensure fair prices for heat network customers?

The hon. Lady makes an important point. Of course, the price cap is an issue for Ofgem. However, I would be interested to hear some of her suggestions and I am always happy to have a meeting on that particular subject.

Fuel and extreme fuel poverty across the highlands and islands is higher than anywhere else in the UK, yet families there are forced to pay the highest electricity standing charges in the UK—50% more than in London, for example. That is despite the region exporting in excess of six times the amount of renewable electricity that it uses. When will the Government introduce a highland energy rebate to ensure fairness for people across the highlands and islands?

The hon. Gentleman will know that we have had many conversations about this subject. One of the things that the Secretary of State and I have been doing is talking to Ofgem to make sure that it is looking at the standing charges. That has led to a call for input, which has recently had over 30,000 responses.

My constituent Beverley Scott, who has cancer, suffered from poor work carried out under the Government’s ECO4 scheme. This included leaving her without heating and damaging her internet. She eventually had to go to the small claims court to get redress for shoddy work, and I know of other people who have had to follow the same route. Given that provider companies, enabled by Government strategy, leave vulnerable householders with no option but to go to court, does the Minister not agree that there should be better oversight and a simpler remedy for people like Beverley Scott?

The right hon. Lady makes an incredibly important point. Of course, one of the things that we are determined to do is make sure that those installations are carried out in the correct manner. In fact, we have new regulations in place to make sure that that happens going forward.

The Minister will know that I am concerned about the level of standing charges in my constituency, as I have discussed this issue with her before. One of the problems is that people with pre-payment meters often find that, when they go to add the payment, the standing charges wipe everything out. Can the Government and Ofgem find a way to provide more support for those on pre-payment meters to avoid that problem?

The hon. Lady and I have had many conversations about this issue. One of the things that we have done is make sure that people who are on pre-payment meters are not unfairly penalised.

The Minister and her colleagues have repeatedly said today that they care about cutting bills for families, but a recent report by the Resolution Foundation found that the onshore wind ban has hit the poorest households’ income six times harder than that of the richest. Such households have been forced to pay additional electricity bills as a result of the total failure to build onshore wind in England. How on earth can Ministers continue to sit there and claim that they stand up for working families when they continue to block the cheapest form of clean energy there is, which could cut bills for families who desperately need help? Before she leaves office, will the Secretary of State pledge to put this right so that onshore wind can be built again and customers can save money on their future bills?

That is absolutely not the case. We stand here incredibly proudly as Ministers in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and we have made a commitment. We are doing more than has ever been done on renewables and offshore wind, and we have done more to help people with the affordability of their bills.