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Household Income: Energy Costs

Volume 741: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2023

1. If she will make an estimate of the proportion of households that spent more than 10% of their income on energy costs in (a) 2021 and (b) 2022. (900331)

In England, the share of households required to spend more than 10% of their income on energy after housing costs was 21% in 2021 and 30% in 2022, following the invasion of Ukraine that year. We provided close to £40 billion of energy support to households and businesses last winter, one of the most generous levels in Europe. Since then, we have seen the Ofgem price cap fall from £4,279 at its peak in January 2023 to £1,928 from January 2024.

More than 20% of Rotherham households are living in fuel poverty, yet the Government’s flagship energy policy will not, by their own admission, save a single penny from those households’ energy bills. Bills are set to rise again in January. How can the Minister justify the Government’s appalling failure to act to support my constituents, struggling to heat their homes this winter?

The extra support announced by the Chancellor last week brings our total cost of living support to £104 billion over the period 2022 to 2025. That is one of the largest support packages anywhere in Europe. On top of that, we are providing £900 in cost of living payments across 2023 and 2024 to ensure that support gets to those most in need.

I recently bumped into Christopher Thexton, who is one of the “green doctors” working out of College House in Barrow. He does an amazing job with his team, going into homes to try to help people to save money on their energy bills and reduce the cost of living, whether that is help with energy debt, fixing drafts in their home or even changing the lightbulbs to make them more energy-efficient, but demand is massively outstripping supply. Can my right hon. Friend speak to whether any more support is available to such teams to help people on the ground to reduce their energy bills?

We are spending £20 billion on energy efficiency over this Parliament and the next. We can be proud of the steps we have taken so far. When we took over in 2010, just 14% of homes were energy-efficient. Now the number is 50%, and we have plans to go further.

An estimated 6.3 million households are in fuel poverty across the UK. Ofgem has announced that energy debt has reached £2.6 billion. With millions of people facing another difficult winter, the Government promised to consult on a social tariff to help the most vulnerable. Can the Secretary of State provide an update on that consultation?

People mean many different things by a social tariff, but fundamentally it is about providing people with support to help with their bills. Just in the autumn statement, we have increased the national living wage, which is worth £1,800 to people; increased benefits by 6.7%, which is worth £470; and cut national insurance contributions, which is worth £450. Those are all on top of the £900 cost of living support we already have in place.

Thursday is Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, and recently the Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel estimated that nearly 30% of households in Scotland are facing extreme fuel poverty, up from 12% in 2019. Does the Secretary of State agree that at the very least that is concerning? Somehow a third of my constituents in the north-east of Scotland—home to a 50-year bonanza for His Majesty’s Treasury—live in energy-rich Scotland but find themselves in fuel poverty. Is that what Unionists mean by pooling and sharing resources?

We have taken energy prices going up incredibly seriously, which is why we have spent £104 billion protecting the British people. That is one of the most generous packages anywhere in Europe. If the hon. Member cares about the incomes of people in Scotland, I suggest that he backs British oil and gas jobs.