Future energy prices remain highly uncertain and are expected to remain elevated throughout next year. The energy price guarantee from April ’23 is currently expected to equate to £500 of support for households in 2023-24.
As I hope the Secretary of State will know, recent analysis published by The Herald has shown that the typical dual fuel bill for people in Scotland will be £3,300—£800 more than the current £2,500 price cap. Given the Chancellor’s plans to increase the price cap further, what levels does the Secretary of State expect average energy bills to reach in Scotland next year?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, a comprehensive range of different support is in place, including the energy price guarantee, which on average looks to guarantee £2,500. It is not specific to each household, of course, and it depends on how much energy is actually used—it is a cap—but there is additional help including the £400 non-repayable support through the energy bills support scheme.
The support to which the Secretary of State refers offers scant consolation to those suffering, particularly the near-130,000 households in Scotland who rely on heating oil. The £200 of support from the UK Government covers less than half the price of the typical minimum order of heating oil, so will he finally commit to increasing the support available to these households?
Of course, everybody has had a £400 discount from their bill that is not repayable, and 8 million families also have additional support—those on income support and the like. The hon. Gentleman mentions the £200; we only just doubled that from £100 in the autumn statement the week before last.
Rising bills terrify most households. The End Fuel Poverty Coalition recently warned that
“predictions of ‘a humanitarian crisis’ for children stuck in cold homes are now a very real possibility”,
so does the Secretary of State accept that failure to provide additional support for vulnerable families in April will have dire consequences?
I just mentioned support for 8 million families that goes beyond just the £400 and the energy price guarantee. Those 8 million families will benefit from all manner of additional support—£1 billion for local authorities, additional money for people on various forms of universal credit, and money for pensioners—all of which is designed to help people through a crisis that the whole House should recognise has been brought on by Putin the dictator invading Ukraine.
Contrary to what the Secretary of State says, the consequences will be dire. The Institute of Health Equity indicates that the development of millions of children will be damaged, so will he commit to providing adequate support for vulnerable families so that no child suffers the diverse health impacts of fuel poverty this winter?
I have mentioned the 8 million homes, but perhaps it will help the hon. Lady if I point out the specific means-tested benefits which mean that those families will receive an extra payment of £650 on top of all the other assistance and help that I have outlined. This is an unprecedented situation. We have put billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into supporting people. I hope the whole House will recognise that this Government have done everything within our power to assist.
The reality is that it is a damning indictment of decades of failed UK Government energy policy that we are even discussing harm to children as a result of rising energy Bills, given the vast energy resources at Scotland’s fingertips. Given that context, does the Secretary of State agree that it is absurd that nearly 1 million households in Scotland will be experiencing fuel poverty?
I have mentioned the household support fund, which is also available for the most vulnerable. I do just have to say, to this line of questioning, that it is extraordinary that while this Government are spending so much energy and money trying to support consumers, we still have the SNP refusing to allow new renewables such as nuclear power.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out the plight of park home owners, who are in a different position from others because of the lack of connection, sometimes, to the grid. We are working very hard to ensure that they get their payments as well, which will happen this winter. My right hon. Friend can be reassured that we are doing that, and currently working through local authorities to deliver it.
Mr Speaker, I know you are a huge fan of making sure your pottery comes from the Potteries. Ceramic manufacturers, despite the energy price cap guarantee—it has been hugely helpful, with one manufacturer saying it will save it £4 million over the winter months—are still left in a dire situation. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet me, the other Members of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent and Rob Flello, the chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, to discuss what further support can be given to this vital industry?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the pressure those manufacturers are under, and I absolutely recognise that. There is the energy-intensive industries discount of 85%, but I would certainly be very happy to meet him and colleagues to discuss the matter further.
To summarise, what we know is that, in Scotland, average household energy bills will exceed the energy price guarantee, but the Secretary of State is unwilling or unable to tell us by quite how much. Of course, we know that on top of that households in Scotland, and indeed children in Scotland, are going to suffer as a result, yet we see no new announcements of additional financial support forthcoming. All the while, Scotland produces its own energy far in excess of what would be required to meet its own demands. Can I therefore ask the Secretary of State whether it is little wonder that viewers watching this at this moment in time would be thinking that Westminster is failing Scotland?
I absolutely do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I have already talked about the £400 that everybody has been able to receive back, with some additional measures coming through for people with unusual connection positions. We have the £650 cost of living payments for those on benefits, £300 for pensioners and £150 for disability costs of living. From what I can work out, the SNP does not like its oil and gas industry and does not want new nuclear power, so I have no idea what its plan actually is.
It is a remarkable state of affairs that a nation that produces more energy than it requires faces child fuel poverty as a result of the actions of this Government here. The Secretary of State does not like those facts, but here are some more for him. To alleviate this crisis in the medium to long term, what we need from this UK Government is not investment in nuclear, but investment in clean, sustainable renewable industries. In that regard, can I welcome his U-turn on onshore wind, but also seek clarity about whether he will provide the same tax incentives for the renewables sector as he will for the fossil fuel industry?
This Government have a very proud record when it comes to renewables. When we came to power, barely 10% was from renewables; now the figure is 42%. In fact, on one day the week before last over half of this country’s energy was produced from offshore wind alone. The SNP does not like the answers I am giving because the amounts of money we are spending supporting people, including Scots, with energy bills this year means that, for example, the average single parent on means-tested benefit will be £1,050 better off because of the energy bills support scheme. Yes, we are doing our part, and perhaps it is time the SNP looked at its own policy to make sure it is encouraging energy production.