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Domestic Energy Prices

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 6th September 2011.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 2:30 pm, 6th September 2011

What assessment he has made of the effects on the economy of recent trends in domestic energy prices.

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

The Office for Budget Responsibility is now responsible for independent economic and fiscal forecasts for the Government, and that includes taking account of trends in energy prices and their impact on the economy, including on inflation. The OBR will publish a fully updated forecast in the autumn.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Thousands of people in my constituency of Gedling and millions across the country will be disappointed by that response from the Minister. Consumer Focus has said that, on average, energy bills will go up by £200 a year, which means that this winter many people —pensioners and families—will be worried about switching on gas and electricity. Has the Minister met the energy companies to discuss that, and will she specifically outline some measures that she and her Government intend to take so that people are not afraid to switch on the heating this winter?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue because it is important. The challenge that we all face is to make sure that energy bills are affordable not just this winter—the point that he makes—but in winters in 10 and 20 years’ time. The problem that we have as a country is our dependency on fossil fuels. In the long term, we need to get ourselves off that dependency so that we are not so blown about by the international winds that see commodity prices go up and down. In the short term, we are taking steps to support the most vulnerable through the Warm Homes discount. Next year, we will introduce the green deal to help energy efficiency. The hon. Gentleman asks whether we have meetings with energy companies, and of course we do every day. I am sure that he will also—

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Conservative, Sherwood

The Minister will be aware of how rapidly fuel and energy prices have increased. Am I right in thinking, however, that if the Chancellor had not taken action in the Budget, fuel prices would be 6p a litre higher today?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The action that we took, which was part of a £1.9 billion package to support motorists, means that fuel duty was 6p lower than it otherwise would have been under the previous Government’s proposals.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Treasury)

The Minister will know that the rise of several hundred pounds in energy costs will hit businesses hard, and that on top of VAT and price and pay freezes it will particularly hit consumers and pensioners. What is her assessment of the level of that price rise? How many meetings has she had with energy companies about the price of energy? What does she intend to do about the price of energy other than freezing the level of winter fuel payments for pensioners?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

I think I have answered those questions already; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should speak to his Back Benchers before they ask his question before he does. I know that it is his wedding anniversary today, and I hope that I do not upset him too much before he has dinner with his wife tonight. I can again assure him that we are absolutely committed to making sure that the Warm Homes discount scheme will support the most vulnerable people in our country so that they can afford to heat their homes.