A formal assessment has not yet been made, but the hon. Gentleman and I have exchanged correspondence on this important issue. It is vital that we create a market framework that works to deliver the benefits of energy cost reduction and carbon reduction from these networks but that protects consumers. I know he has a passionate interest in this, given the eight networks already operating in his constituency.
Not a month goes by in which I do not receive scores of emails from desperate constituents who are paying over the odds and are ill served by district heating networks. They are not getting a fair deal and cannot afford to wait for the Competition and Markets Authority’s partial market study to report. For their sake, I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to introducing statutory regulation now. Will she meet me to discuss the issue?
I am always happy to meet the hon. Gentleman, as he knows. It is interesting, because on average consumers are paying less and have the same level of satisfaction as they have with other heating options. Well designed and well regulated frameworks can really deliver a benefit for consumers, which is why we are investing more than £300 million, but the hon. Gentleman and I should get together to discuss his constituents’ particular concerns.
Forgive me, but I want to get to other colleagues’ questions as well, so if it is a short sentence, I will take it, but if it is not, I will not. No? All right.
Will the Minister tell us why it has taken so long to disburse some of the £320 million fund for district heating schemes? So many local authorities and other bodies want to apply for funding, but the Government are being slow in disbursing the money.
I am not sure I agree with that, partly because we have to get this right and make sure that there is a competitive market and that consumers do not feel that these things are being imposed on them. We should celebrate the fact that we have £300 million to take these pilots forward. Pilot projects are under way in Manchester, Sheffield and Barking, and I look forward to funding many more.