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We remain committed to doing all that is reasonably practicable to ensure that households do not live in fuel poverty. Between 1996 and 2005, the number of fuel-poor households in the UK fell from about 6.5 million to about 2.5 million. Rising fuel prices have reversed that trend, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last year announced a 20 per cent. uplift in the carbon emissions reduction target, a new community energy saving programme, higher Warm Front grants and a big increase in cold weather payments.
I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Given that people who use heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas are more than twice as likely to be in fuel poverty than the rest of the population, will he assure me that the ongoing renewable heating incentive consultation will not propose an additional levy on heating oil and LPG? That would be paid by people who use heating oil and LPG in rural areas, and it would add to the bills of people who already pay the highest prices in the country.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question, but I am not prepared to give that assurance today. What I can say is that our proposals for feed-in tariffs and renewable heating incentives offer new opportunities for people to reduce their energy costs by producing more energy for themselves and, hopefully, selling back an excess afterwards. We will consult on our proposals for the renewable heating incentive, which we hope to have in place by April 2011.
Will my hon. Friend assure us all that his Department is alive to the fact that, when energy prices went up, domestic prices followed very rapidly, but when energy prices fell, domestic prices did not fall as rapidly? What is his Department doing to track those companies and ensure that they do not rip off their customers?
I should say two things about that: first, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made me responsible for consumer interests, so I personally shall take an interest in the issue; and, secondly, Ofgem has been asked to produce quarterly reports on the very point that my hon. Friend has made, so that there is both transparency and the information to hand to enable people such as me to take action if necessary.