Fuel Poverty Bill

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 20th March 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Labour, Islington South and Finsbury 1:40 pm, 20th March 2009

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Let me refer him to the case of another individual who contacted me. He is a leaseholder, and I know that the issue is close to the hon. Gentleman's heart. That gentleman bought his council accommodation believing that that was the best thing to do in the 1980s and thought that it would be a way of investing for the future.

The decent homes standard and its implementation is one of the great achievements of this Government and one that I support wholeheartedly, but what disturbs me hugely is that when residents of a block are told that it is to be put into the decent home standard, it is a matter of dread for a substantial minority living in that block because they are so worried about the major works bills.

The gentleman contacted me to make it clear that he could not afford to pay the bills that the council had sent out for doing up the block, and went into some detail about the costs that he had to meet in order to survive. The paragraph relevant to today's debate is this:

"I become overdrawn practically every month due to all the payments that I have to make. The pension credit and disability living allowance is just not enough for a couple to survive on when all these payments are due. The DWP gave a winter heating allowance of £200, this was much appreciated but when you consider that the total for our gas and electricity bill for the final quarter of the year was in excess of £360, the allowance doesn't actually cover it. Surely the government need to make sure the allowance matches the huge price hike put forward by companies such as British Gas."

People have bought their council flats but cannot afford to meet the cost of a major works programme. On top of that, their heating costs too much—much more than it ought to, and much more than their incomes. That is why, for all of us, particularly for those of us who represent poor and deprived communities, it is such a major issue. We are extremely concerned about what will happen. With climate change and the unpredictability of the weather, constituencies such as mine in the south of England will be hit by colder weather than we have ever experienced before.

We have to ensure that our homes are sound and warm, and that we address the problem of fuel poverty. The question is whether this private Member's Bill is a practical way to address that problem. I have a number of concerns about the Bill. I have been able to hear some of the debate, and I found it informative. I am concerned about some of the questions raised this morning, but I welcome the fact that the Government are reviewing the issue of fuel poverty and I will look to see what they can do to ensure that we address the problem properly. The ladies from 67 Graham street, the leaseholder whom I mentioned and the woman who came to see me in my surgery today all depend on the Government to address the problem properly and find a solution. I suspect, however, that the solution cannot be found in the Bill.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website