They need to give greater consideration to it and provide greater investment. I will move on.
Fuel poverty has a greater social impact. Children who live in cold homes see an impact on their ability to achieve, whether because of illness or simply because of a poor quality home environment. The financial and emotional stress it can place on families can damage relationships and lead to long-term stress-related mental health issues.
I am concerned that, although some work has been done in this area, the fact remains that the number of homes in fuel poverty has slowly been creeping up. The fuel poverty gap, which is a measure of the difference between a household’s energy bill and what it can afford to pay, increased from £235 in 2003 to £371 in 2014. At the same time, we have seen stagnating wages, or a lost decade in earnings as the Bank of England has termed it. What is more worrying is that after the recent Budget, the Institute for Fiscal Studies stated that, on the Government’s current economic trajectory, average wages in 2022 will be worse in real terms than before the financial crash. The Minister will appreciate that as inflation pushes up, the differential between price increases and wage growth will continue to close. Even if energy prices are capped, which I know is an option being considered by the Government, the amount that families have to spend on bills will still get smaller and smaller.
It is not enough, therefore, simply to tackle fuel poverty as a stand-alone issue. The Government must tackle the causes of fuel poverty. Without investing in the tools that businesses need to drive up wages and productivity, wages will continue to stagnate in the long term. Sadly, in the Budget we did not see the investment required from the Government that would in any way go towards bringing us in line with other industrial countries. It is therefore no shock that Britain is the only large developed country where wages fell even as economic growth returned after the crash. I digress slightly, Madam Deputy Speaker.