The number of low-income households insulated is largely determined by the availability locally of unemployed people requiring training in those occupational or skill areas which the projects can provide. Against that background, it would not be appropriate to set a minimum target.
Will the Minister confirm that there has been a 50 per cent. reduction in the number of low-income households that have been insulated during the past year since the introduction of employment training? Will he urgently consider ways of expanding such schemes and urge his colleagues to increase the funding to local authorities, so that they can increase the number of schemes that they operate?
I confirm that there was a reduction during the transition from the community programme to employment training. However, the hon. Lady will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment considered this matter carefully and increased the grant by £40. Since that time it appears that the take-up of the scheme under employment training has been good, and I know that my right hon. Friend is looking carefully at continuing that grant.
May I re-emphasise to the Minister how important it is to insulate low-income households because of the likelihood that, during the period before privatisation and afterwards, their electricity bills will increase by about 50 per cent. or more? I draw to the Minister's attention the case of my constituent, Mr. John O'Connor of Ashcroft crescent, Fairwater, Cardiff, which was brought to my attention on Saturday. He was told in his most recent electricity bill that his monthly payment on or after 25 September will be £27·50. That is a 55 per cent. increase on Mr. O'Connor's previous quarterly bill and on the average of the four previous quarterly bills that he has received.
When I received my quarterly bill at the same time I was told that if I changed to a monthly budget account my bill "would be" £91·50 per month. That is a larger increase than that faced by Mr. O'Connor, but at least I was given the option by being told what my bill "would be" if I switched to a monthly budget account, whereas pensioner households on council estates are being told, "Your bill will be going up by 55 per cent. from September". Does the Minister agree that it is absolutely urgent that low-income households are fully insulated and that the practices of the South Wales electricity board are reviewed?
First, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment on his insulation initiative.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this is the first time that he has mentioned the case of his constituent, Mr. O'Connor, but I shall be perfectly happy to look into the matter. Perhaps he would like to write to me or come to see me about it. He will appreciate, however, that electricity bills have not increased by anything like 50 per cent.