The Government are committed to helping energy consumers. We have brought forward the price cap Bill, and more than 2 million low-income households receive £140 a year through the warm home discount.
Does the Secretary of State agree that a wide-reaching energy efficiency programme would help vulnerable customers in Eddisbury and elsewhere, as well as helping the UK meet its climate change targets?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the missions that the Prime Minister announced as part of our grand challenges in the industrial strategy is to reduce by 50% the energy consumption of homes built in the future. That has an important impact not only on our greenhouse gas emissions, but on the bills that people face.
With recent rises in fuel costs, many motorists in the Scottish borders feel like they have been taken for a ride. What steps are the Government taking to try to reduce the impact of higher taxation on fuel, and what analysis has the Department carried out on the allegations of rocket and feather pricing on petrol and diesel sales at the pump?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the question. It is a very important market. Obviously, recent oil price rises have had an impact at the petrol pumps. It is important that prices are competitive and not, as he implies, subject to rising quickly and then taking a long time to decline. The Office of Fair Trading last looked at this in 2013, but I expect its successor, the Competition and Markets Authority, under Andrew Tyrie, a noted consumer champion, to keep this under close review.
Up to 200,000 customers do not benefit from the warm homes discount because they get their energy from smaller energy suppliers. Is it not time to extend the warm homes discount, especially since energy bills are going up and we are trying to crack down on rip-off tariffs?
The hon. Lady, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, makes a very important point. We are reviewing whether the threshold for exclusion is appropriate; I know that she will welcome that.
Some 169 households in my constituency have been affected by the mis-selling of insulation and solar panels by HELMS. This company was accredited by the Government under the old green deal scheme, so what will the Government do to compensate these people—often vulnerable pensioners—and how will they prevent such mis-selling from happening under the new green deal scheme?
As with any other supplier, consumer protection rights are in place and available. I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss this particular case and see whether we can help.
Vulnerable customers can benefit from the use of smart meters. Will the Secretary of State update the House on how many SMETS 2 meters have now been installed and are connected to the Data Communications Company?
I can tell my hon. Friend that 1,000 new SMETS 2 meters have already been installed. That is a significant milestone because it represents the beginning of the roll-out of the next generation of meters.
As businesses look to expand their market share in the wider evolving world market beyond the EU ahead of next year, what priority are the Government giving to maintaining and trying to reduce energy bills to create employment and prosperity right across the United Kingdom?
The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely important point. We have commissioned Professor Dieter Helm to look at how we can reduce the costs of our energy system for businesses and consumers. One of the advantages of the strategy that we have pursued is that we have brought down the costs of offshore wind—a major contribution—by targeting and investing substantially in it at a rate, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth said earlier, which has resulted in a reduction beyond what anyone expected even a couple of years ago.