Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:14 pm on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 5:14 pm, 6th March 2018

I absolutely agree. To assist, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will take no more interventions during the rest of this speech.

As I said, we need data sharing for vulnerable customers to give them better protection. There remains a risk, as was highlighted by Mark Pawsey, who is still in the Chamber, that suppliers may just increase their lowest prices to maintain profit. We will all be watching carefully to see how they react.

So what must now be done? In Scotland, the SNP Government are providing resources for financial health check-ups to help pensioners and those on low incomes to make the most of their money and to secure the best energy tariffs. The UK Government will, I hope, follow suit.

We call on the Government to place a new duty on energy companies to set out a clear timetable for reducing the number of people on prepayment meters, to implement the Competition and Markets Authority’s call to reduce the costs for households and to introduce a requirement for energy companies to prioritise the roll-out of new-generation smart meters to households at risk of fuel poverty. That can all be done in short measure.

When it comes to disabled people, even more action is needed. Disabled people face higher energy costs because of issues related to their impairment or condition. Those extra costs have a detrimental impact on disabled people’s financial resilience and ability to fully participate in society. The price cap goes some way, but the UK Government must now put in place longer-term plans alongside the price cap to improve support for disabled consumers, including increasing accessible communication and digital inclusion and, as I mentioned earlier, building on more effective data use.

The challenges for disabled people are that they have no choice but to consume more. They have limited mobility, use more heating to stay warm and run additional technology and equipment. Over a quarter—27%—of households with a disabled person spend more than £1,500 a year on energy, and nearly 800,000 households across the nations of the UK spend more than £,2,500.

There must be a different way to deal with this. In Scotland, the Scottish Government have announced a publicly owned energy company, supporting efforts to take fuel poverty and climate change targets seriously. We will provide people, particularly those on low incomes, with more choice and the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers and who looks after the wellbeing of those who lack the confidence or ability to engage effectively in complex energy markets. That will also allow us to deliver on broader energy ambitions for renewable generation and the maximisation of community benefit. By the end of this parliamentary term, the conditions will be in place to meet the set-up challenges.

In welcoming the Bill, I once again stress that this action comes too late in the day for many. Progress on helping hard-pressed consumers must now be much more rapid and effective, especially for those who are hurting the most.