Fuel Poverty Bill

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 1:14 pm on 20th March 2009.

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Photo of Jim McGovern Jim McGovern Labour, Dundee West 1:14 pm, 20th March 2009

I agree entirely. "Global" has become something of a buzz word recently, but what we in the UK are trying to achieve should be not only a Europe-wide but a global aspiration.

As I was saying, our ambition is to achieve that whole-house treatment target by 2020, be it privately owned, privately rented or social housing leading the way, with Government support. The heat and energy saving strategy is an ambitious package that aims for nothing less than a fundamental shift in our approach to using and saving energy at home and at work—an energy revolution. It sets out short-term action to help consumers save energy and save money, but it also sets out options for a longer-term strategy to support and encourage everyone to work together and make the changes we need in the fairest way possible.

Success means moving beyond relatively inexpensive and easy energy efficiency measures to more radical ways of saving energy and decarbonising the supply of heat. I am pleased that the Government are making sure that there is comprehensive support for those who need it most. We are doing that by looking at new delivery models to provide house-by-house and street-by-street approaches, targeted particularly at the poorest communities. We are looking, too, at the idea of linking finance to the property, rather than the householder, and at new measures to stimulate community-scale generation. The options that the Government have put forward are of a scale that is different and more ambitious than anything we have considered before.

Our aim is that all the houses for which it is feasible will have cavity wall and loft insulation by 2015. That, in itself, is a very significant task, but we must go much further. By 2020, to cut emissions by a third, the Government will have offered 7 million homes a whole-house refurbishment—not just basic energy efficiency measures, but more radical approaches such as solid wall insulation and new technologies to generate heat and power for the home. By 2030, we will need to have gone even further, with cost-effective energy efficiency measures available to all households, and by 2050, every home will have to be near zero-carbon.

So this cannot be about energy companies helping a few million houses; we have to think bigger than that. That is why the Great British refurb is based on a plan that, over time, will cover every area and every house in every area. We have serious plans to tackle fuel poverty and carbon emissions through energy efficiency measures that would be entirely cut across by this Bill. I doubt the commitment of the Conservative party, which has opposed our measures, including the winter fuel payment. Mr. Willetts, the then shadow Social Security Secretary, said the following when opposing it:

"Will the Secretary of State confirm that most of the money has gone not into the minimum income guarantee or the basic pension, but into complicated and indiscriminate special payments such as the winter fuel payment? Does he not realise that pensioners find these allowances patronising and intrusive? They would far rather have that money as part of their guaranteed weekly income, and that is what we offer them."—[ Hansard, 9 November 2000; Vol. 356, c. 457.]

The situation in Scotland is concerning. I have already mentioned the fact that the party that claims to stand up for Scotland is conspicuous in its absence here today. Rural fuel poverty is a particular issue in Scotland, and I am concerned that fuel poverty continues to grow. A recent Government review concluded that fuel poverty is more prevalent in Scotland than in England, that fuel poverty is likely to increase further, and that the energy efficiency measures currently in place are not enough. Most damaging of all, it stated that existing fuel poverty programmes in Scotland are not focused on the fuel poor. Surely the SNP-led Scottish Executive have to accept some responsibility for the situation

I am pleased that the Government are reviewing their policies, and I welcome the fact that the review will examine all three causes of fuel poverty—prices, energy efficiency and income—which I have discussed today. I am pleased that the Government are not dragging their feet and are still committed to their 2016 targets. This Bill is designed to set the Government up to fail, rather than to achieve its stated goal. Co-operating with the Government's plans would be a much better way for people to achieve their goals, if they wanted to. Uncosted and unrealistic, this Bill, sadly, has to fail.

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