Fuel Poverty Bill

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 1:51 pm on 20th March 2009.

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Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Energy and Climate Change) 1:51 pm, 20th March 2009

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I want to get to the crucial part of the debate, which is the issue of whether it is appropriate to put all the targets into the energy efficiency programmes and the particular bands that the Bill provides for. It is a perfectly legitimate approach, but the Government are already considering many more comprehensive programmes of energy efficiency. As it stands, the Bill proposes using standard assessment procedure ratings, and requiring all fuel-poor households, except those defined as hard to treat, to be upgraded to a SAP 81 rating by 2016. That ignores the diversity of the UK housing stock, more than 40 per cent. of which has a SAP rating of between 39 and 54, and ignores the diversity of the people in them. Coupled with an absolute duty, that is an extraordinary commitment to seek to bind any Government to.

Hon. Members seem sometimes to forget that there are only two ways of providing finance for such programmes. Either the obligation falls on the energy companies and they recoup the costs by loading them on to everyone else's bills, or the obligation falls on the taxpayer. While the principles behind the Bill—improving energy efficiency in a bid to prevent fuel poverty—are sound, the targets are uncosted, unrealistic and not thought through.

The Bill proposes that existing homes with fuel-poor inhabitants should be upgraded to a SAP 81 rating—that is, a band B grade—or a band C rating if they are hard-to-treat homes. As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome has said, he is prepared to reduce that level, but it is currently estimated that only 1 million-odd homes in Britain today have been brought to the band C standard. Indeed only 30,000 properties in England are at the band B standard. The average SAP rating of all homes is only 50 at the moment. Therefore, even with the proposals that he might make, we think that this is an unrealistic target.

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