Fuel Poverty

Part of Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 1:58 pm on 21st March 2017.

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Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 1:58 pm, 21st March 2017

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. As I have said, previously, he is one of the most thoughtful Members of the House on this subject. He will know that we are on the cusp of something very interesting in our relationship with energy and our ability to manage it more intelligently. Such an opportunity must be just as much available to well-to-do people as it is to those struggling with their bills, and that must be a priority for us. That is partly why I stressed the point that the reforms we are making to the existing policy instruments will increasingly focus on the most vulnerable and the poorest in our communities.

However important it is to improve the energy efficiency of people’s homes, it will inevitably take time, and Government recognise that people also need immediate support with energy bills. We therefore have in place the second pillar of the strategy, the warm home discount. This scheme now provides over 2 million low-income and vulnerable households with a £140 rebate off their energy bill each winter, when temperatures are lowest and bills are highest.

Together the schemes mean that, as I have said, there will be at least £770 million of support for low-income and vulnerable consumers during the financial year 2017-18. This is a significant level of support for households across the country. Other policies will also make a contribution, such as the prepayment safeguard tariff, which I hope the House welcomes, and the roll-out of smart meters. Smart meters are regularly debated in this place, and the evidence is already showing the consumer popularity of this technology and its ability to help people save money and manage their energy use in a smarter way.

Making progress cannot be just about subsidy; regulation will play an important role as we take action to ensure that tenants can live in a home that keeps them comfortably warm. The private rented sector regulations will target the least efficient F and G-rated properties from 2018 by requiring landlords to improve those properties to at least a band E, unless a valid exemption applies. The Department is currently considering options for the implementation of the regulations, with a view to ensuring that they can be implemented effectively by April 2018.

Of course, there is more work to be done. One key area will be to improve targeting on the households most in need. The Digital Economy Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, will be important in that regard, as it will make available better data on householders and properties. We believe that that will in turn reduce the costs that energy suppliers face in identifying the households most in need, and allow more measures to be installed for the same cost.

The actions I have described are all led by the Government. However, fuel poverty is a problem for all of society, and the Government cannot tackle it alone. That is why partnership is a key theme of the fuel poverty strategy. It is important for the Government to play a leadership role, but also to work in partnership with local government, businesses and the charitable sector. Only by making the most of the varied skills and resources of each of those partners will we, collaboratively, be able to tackle fuel poverty.