Cost of Energy: Support for Families

Treasury – in the House of Commons on 15th November 2022.

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Photo of James Grundy James Grundy Conservative, Leigh

What recent steps his Department has taken to support families with the cost of energy bills.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

What recent steps his Department has taken to support families with the cost of energy bills.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

The Government have taken decisive action to support millions of households with the energy price guarantee, which caps the cost of energy at £2,500 for the average household. We are also spending £37 billion to support millions of low-income households.

Photo of James Grundy James Grundy Conservative, Leigh

Will my right hon. Friend tell me what the average household energy bill would have been if the Government had not intervened to help hard-working families across Britain?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I thank my hon. Friend for his informative question, because it allows me to say that with the energy price guarantee at £2,500, the average saving for consumers across the country—including his constituents in Leigh, for whom he is a formidable advocate—is £700.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

I have received correspondence from park home residents about the £400 of support with their bills. I recognise and welcome the measures to limit prices, but these households are seeing their electricity bills go up alongside the cost of their heating oil or gas bottles. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that his Department and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are working together to get support to park home residents before the end of the year?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I, too, have park home residents in my constituency. It is very important that we treat them fairly and give them the help that we are giving others, so we have set up the energy bills support scheme alternative funding as a way of helping them. It is designed to give them the equivalent of the £400 that we are giving to people with more normal energy consumption patterns. I will write to my hon. Friend with more details.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

BBC Radio 4 erroneously claimed this morning that energy payments to consumers in Northern Ireland would be held up because of the non-operation of the Assembly as a result of the Northern Ireland protocol. Ministers have worked with the Minister for the Economy in Northern Ireland and have made commitments that payments will be made before Christmas, but some senior civil servants seem to be seeking to use non-payment as a lever to get the Assembly back into operation. Will the Chancellor confirm, first, that money is available for the package; secondly, that the energy companies are ready to deliver it; and thirdly, that the Government will keep their commitment to ensure that payments are made before Christmas? Will he also investigate whether civil servants are interfering in the political process in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are absolutely determined to ensure that support gets out to everyone in the United Kingdom as quickly as possible this Christmas. I am absolutely not aware of any delay of the kind that he suggests, but I will happily make inquiries to make sure of that.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent

The cold weather payment is a lifeline for those on low incomes, but the current £25 rate was set in 2008. Today, it should be worth £37. Will the Chancellor collaborate with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and look into updating the figure in the light of the energy crisis?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that I have had extensive discussions with our excellent new Work and Pensions Secretary about how we support people on low incomes—precisely the vulnerable people that he is talking about. He will have to wait until Thursday for the details of our plan, but we have said that, in a very difficult time, protecting the most vulnerable will be our top priority.

Photo of James Murray James Murray Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Two years ago, in a video entitled “Rishi Explains: Green Home Grants”, the current Prime Minister enthusiastically took credit for the green homes grant scheme. Six months later, the scheme collapsed and £1 billion was cut from its budget. The truth is that we have the draughtiest homes in Europe, but when it comes to insulating homes, the Government are nowhere to be seen. If the Government had followed our plan last year, 2 million of the coldest homes could already have been upgraded, saving households more than £2 billion on energy bills this year alone. Home insulation should be a no-brainer. Will the Chancellor explain why the Government will not follow Labour’s plans and get on with it?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

There are all sorts of bigger reasons why we do not want to follow Labour’s plans, not least because they would bankrupt the economy. On the scheme to help people to insulate their homes, the picture that the hon. Gentleman presents is not correct. We are spending billions of pounds to help hundreds of thousands of families up and down the country to insulate their homes. We completely recognise that that is a vital part of our long-term energy policy.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I welcome this latest Chancellor to his place. Many of our constituents, such as my constituent Angela, have seen their bills double. Angela’s gas bill has gone up from £130 to £260 a month. She lives in a tiny, two-bedroom flat on carer’s allowance and personal independence payment, with a son who has a disability, and she simply cannot afford these bills. Cornwall Insight has estimated that come March, when the energy support ends, the price cap will rise to £3,700. There has been talk of targeting support after that, but National Energy Action has pointed out the risk that many people who are already suffering in fuel poverty will be excluded. What reassurance can he give people out there whose bills are already unaffordable about what will happen in March?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I want to reassure the hon. Lady. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury spoke to John Swinney, the Scottish Finance Minister, yesterday. We are thinking very carefully about all these issues, but to correct any misunderstanding, let me add that the energy price support that we give to families will not end next April, and I will announce on Thursday what that support will be.