5. Member Debate under Standing Order 11.21(iv) — Warm This Winter campaign

– in the Senedd at 3:24 pm on 14 June 2023.

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Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:24, 14 June 2023


Item 5 this afternoon is a Member debate under Standing Order 11.21, the Warm This Winter campaign. I call on Hefin David to move the motion.


Motion NDM8275 Hefin David, Jack Sargeant, Jane Dodds

Supported by Alun Davies (Blaenau Gwent), Carolyn Thomas, Delyth Jewell, Heledd Fychan, Huw Irranca-Davies, Jenny Rathbone, John Griffiths, Joyce Watson, Mike Hedges, Rhianon Passmore, Rhys ab Owen, Sioned Williams, Vikki Howells

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Notes that Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom are in the grips of multiple crises, namely the cost-of-living crisis, energy crisis, and the climate and nature emergencies, and that the Warm This Winter campaign recognises that these crises are connected and intertwined, and that they have shared causes and shared solutions.

2. Notes that the Warm This Winter campaign in Wales is calling for emergency support for the most vulnerable.

3. Notes that the Welsh Government has put investment in place to support vulnerable households last winter, that they have announced a new public energy company for Wales, and additional energy efficiency schemes for our homes, but that more needs to be done.

4. Calls on the Welsh Government to work to implement solutions for a genuine pathway out of the cost-of-living crisis, by recognising that there are key steps to addressing energy security and the climate crisis—like a rapid scale up of energy efficiency and rolling out community energy all over Wales.

5. Calls on the Welsh Government to raise concerns with the UK Government on the cost of energy, and the need to ensure that there are UK support schemes in place to ensure that people are warm this winter, and every winter to come.


Motion moved.

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour 3:24, 14 June 2023

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. As I look up through the funnel at the sky, I can see the sky is blue, and this is possibly one of the warmest days, if not the warmest day, of the year. You might think it's an unusual time to start thinking about winter, but, actually, this is absolutely the right time to start thinking about winter and how we protect our most vulnerable and lowest income households as we approach, with climate change, what could be a cold and could be a wet winter.

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour 3:25, 14 June 2023

Therefore, I'm very pleased to be able to bring this debate forward today, and I want to say a 'thank you', of course, to co-submitters Jack Sargeant and Jane Dodds, who will have things to say in this debate, and also everyone else who has signed up to it. But also I think I should mention someone much missed from this Chamber, who is Bethan Sayed. I'm sure she's missed by Plaid Cymru—she's certainly missed by us. [Interruption.] Yes, you've got to nod. You've got to nod. Bethan has demonstrated the maxim that Tony Benn first came up with that, by leaving Parliament, you have more time for politics. And that's certainly the case with her. She's helped us develop this motion. She's helped us identify some of the key areas of campaigning through her work with Climate Cymru and, across the UK, the Warm This Winter campaign, which is an excellent campaign, which is designed to effect change in the UK, but also, through Climate Cymru, here in Wales.

And what I'm going to do today is identify some of the things we'd like to see Welsh Government doing, some of the things they've done well so far and maybe have started to discontinue and we'd like to see a bit more next year, and also some of the things the UK Government is doing. But Conservatives can rest easy—I'm not going to go on the attack; I'm not going to do an Alun Davies and upset you. My plan is certainly to try and find my—[Interruption.] Shh. My plan is certainly to try and find some ways of finding cross-party agreement on this and, hopefully, have full support across this Chamber for the motion. I understand Welsh Government will be supporting the motion. I've got something to say about that in a minute.

So, we are living through a climate crisis, a cost-of-living crisis and an environmental crisis. All of these things together are combining towards hurting those people who are most vulnerable in our communities. But, of course, they are combined, they are connected, these issues, and I think there is certainly a way, through some of the recommendations we'll have today, of addressing these issues.

So, the Warm This Winter campaign across the UK calls for energy support to help people struggling with energy bills, a coherent plan to end gas and oil dependency and the upscaling of renewable projects. Here in Wales, Climate Cymru have adapted the Warm This Winter campaign to ask the Welsh Government to support vulnerable people in Wales with home-efficiency grants and investment in community renewables. What I wanted to do was just look at what the Welsh Government have done so far first of all, and also raise some concerns about that, for the future, and then look at what we want to see.

So, so far, we've seen a £150 cost-of-living payment from the Welsh Government. Caerphilly council distributed that in my constituency, and they also added to it. We've seen a £200 Welsh fuel support scheme. We've seen additional funding to the discretionary assistance fund, a £4 million national fuel voucher scheme and a £1 million warm banks fund. These were all helpful things last winter that made a difference for the people in our communities. We would like to see a winter 2023 winter fuel campaign similar to the one that was run in 2022. So far, we haven't heard from Welsh Government as to whether this will happen. With the Minister—. I think the Minister's on the screen. I'd like to say it would be helpful to know whether Welsh Government intend to run either a similar campaign or something very similar to it.

What next from Welsh Government? Well, we'd like to credit the Welsh Government for the Nest scheme. I think it has made a difference in guiding the most vulnerable people to the activities that they can undertake and places they can go to gain support. But we would like the Welsh Government to adjust that scheme for people on the lowest incomes in order to help them insulate their homes. There is a route to that. I think you need some support from the UK Government too to do it, but there is certainly the opportunity to extend that scheme.

We want the Welsh Government to support the living wage campaign and to think about, particularly, that promise we made for those workers in social care, that their wages—. The lower they go, the harder that service is to deliver. And we'd like to think about the ability to go beyond the living wage, even, for social care workers. We'd like to give all unpaid carers cost-of-living financial support, not just those in receipt of carers allowance—my little daughter is five years old, and she's a carer for her older sister; there are many forms of caring that go on in the communities, and I think we need to think about that—and also bring together the additional support that exists, the free school meals, council tax reduction schemes and other schemes the Welsh Government deliver, under one umbrella, one cohesive system, so that it's easy for people to understand and to access. And of course we would like to see, further down the line, a more cohesive benefits system, but this is a step towards that that the Welsh Government can introduce.

And I know what Jack Sargeant is going to talk about in his speech—it's going to be prepayment meters. Is that right, Jack? I think it is. Give me a nod if it is; it is. And I think prepayment meters, and the forced introduction of prepayment meters in this country, is an evil, and I think Jack Sargeant is going to tell us why that's the case, and he's going to tell us later what can be done about it.

We also want the Welsh Government to lobby the UK Government to make up for the shortfall that low and vulnerable households will have as a result of inflation and the increasing difficulties that the economy is having. And again, I'm not going to get into a party political battering of the Conservatives. What I'd say to the Conservatives is: join the Welsh Government in calling for the UK Government to fill the gaps in the social security system that is being created by this out-of-control inflation that we are seeing at this point in time. Work together, get the UK Government to fill in those gaps; it can happen, and it can be done.

We'd also—and this is, of course, Labour Party policy, but I would imagine Plaid Cymru would support it as well—want to impose a genuine windfall tax on energy companies, and also scrap incentives to scale up the extraction of fossil fuels. I think that is something that we would support; at least two thirds of this Chamber, I think, would support that.

What can the UK Government do to help the Welsh Government deliver secure homes and insulated homes? Well, the devolved budget can be increased to enable delivery of a scaled up home insulation programme. And the fact is that, as you deliver home insulation in this country, it delivers savings in the medium term back to the Treasury. This is an invest-to-save activity that the UK Government could be engaging in, but isn't, and we feel that that could happen. We could see a rapid scale-up also of low-cost renewables.

And finally, now, this is a live one, the next one: Warm Homes. I've been in touch with Welsh Government special advisers, and I'm told we're expecting a Warm Homes statement from the Welsh Government today. So, I'd say to the Minister: perhaps she could make that statement as part of her response to this debate—it would be really helpful. I've asked Alex in my office to send me a message should the Warm Homes statement be released. Is it out?

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour

We're waiting for it. Sioned's waiting for it as well. So, we're waiting with bated breath, Minister, for the Warm Homes statement. If you've got it, let us have it—let's do it now. What would we like to see in that statement? We'd like to see an ambitious Warm Homes programme for Wales, at scale and pace. This should target the most impacted households first, prioritise improving the fabric of the house with energy-efficient measures, and combine a street-by-street approach and on-demand support for vulnerable households wherever they are. That is what we're asking for in the Warm Homes scheme; we really are looking forward to that statement and what is coming next.

And I just wanted to say something about Arbed as well, which is now of course discontinued. Caerphilly council managed the investment in Lansbury Park in my constituency, which saw a transformation of many homes on the estate. But not every home was covered; some felt the scheme didn't go far enough for some of the homes on the estate. And I'd like to ask the Welsh Government what lessons can be learned from the delivery of that scheme, because we knew that there were opportunities to link some of the Arbed work into existing homes, and we were told that it wasn't cost-effective to do so as the programme then existed. So, if Warm Homes is coming forward, can that perhaps fill some of the gaps that Arbed didn't?

As with all these debates, individual Member's debates, this is for the Chamber—this is for people in this Chamber, Members in this Chamber, to tell us what's happening in their communities and what they would like to see in terms of policy. I'm really looking forward to hearing those responses. I really hope that Conservatives will take part in the debate—that would be really helpful to us all. I know Plaid Cymru are intending to take part, and Labour, and Liberal Democrats. And I'd like to hear collectively what more we can do, collectively what more we can do, to make this winter warmer for those people who are most vulnerable and are on the lowest incomes in our society. So, right now, it's over to you.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:34, 14 June 2023

I have many speakers, and well over the limit. I'll try and call everyone, but you can help me by keeping to your time, please. Jane Dodds.

Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat

Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. There's throwing down the gauntlet there, so I will do my best to keep within my time.

Every winter, people die in Wales due to cold homes. Rural communities, such as my own region of Mid and West Wales, suffer from fuel and energy poverty far above the national average. The problems of last year, as we've heard, have not gone away, and I would like to thank Hefin for bringing this forward at this point. It is critical that we plan for winter from now on. We cannot leave people waiting and wanting, and wanting to know what's happening around having warm homes. Rising costs this winter may mean that many of all of our residents are forced to make the difficult decision between heating and eating.

Wales has the oldest housing stock in the United Kingdom, and the lowest proportion of dwellings in the country with an energy performance certificate rating of C and above. Welsh housing is some of the least energy efficient in Europe. According to a committee report last year, the Warm Homes programme failed to match Wales's level of need, and undermined its own goals due to its poor design and delivery. As I've previously highlighted in the Siambr, at the current rate, the Nest programme would take 134 years to insulate every fuel-poor home. 

The Warm This Winter campaign is calling for emergency support for vulnerable households, whether that be by automatically referring the needy to energy-efficient schemes, or through expanding financial support to cover those who have fallen through the cracks. We cannot wait. This Government must act now.

Beyond immediate relief, we in Wales need solutions at scale and at pace, to end fuel poverty and create a more energy-secure renewable future. The Welsh Government must do more to support community renewable projects, end our reliance upon expensive fossil fuels, and help upskill our workforce to a green transition. That's why I've been calling, and others have been as well, to make sure that we have a 'bonanza tax', as I call it, on energy executive bonuses, or by campaigning for a transition to a universal basic income. We must stop Aberpergwm coal mine right now, and ensure that there is action to close Ffos-y-fran, as is supposed to be happening on 28 July.

By helping our most impacted houses today, and by investing in a renewable tomorrow, Wales can help make fuel poverty a thing of the past. On top of what we've heard already from Hefin, and the idea of this umbrella approach to helping people understand what's available, I just want to talk very quickly about debt bonfires. Debt bonfires was a recommendation in the Equality and Social Justice Committee's report, and it makes it clear that this is one tool that can help those households that are suffering under burdensome debts, but will also take away the stress and the mental health things that go with it as well. 

I look forward to the debate and the discussion, and I thank, once again, Hefin, for bringing this forward. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Dirprwy Lywydd.

Photo of Jack Sargeant Jack Sargeant Labour 3:38, 14 June 2023

I'm very pleased to be able to co-submit this motion of Hefin David's today, alongside Jane Dodds as well. It was a pleasure to welcome Climate Cymru and the Warm This Winter campaign to the Senedd a few weeks ago, for Members to be able to sign up and pledge to their campaign. And if Members haven't done so yet, then I urge them to consider doing just that. And Hefin David is absolutely right. The sun is beating down outside today; it's sweltering out there. But last winter, we should not forget how long and how miserable and how difficult it was for so many. And so many of those are already worried about how they will manage next winter. And I completely support the motion in front of us today, and the calls for emergency support for our most vulnerable.

Deputy Presiding Officer, Hefin David hasn't read my mind too cleverly; I am going to talk about prepayment meters, but I'm not going to ask him for the lottery numbers. It should be no surprise that I'm going to talk about the issues of vulnerable individuals and families, and how they were being treated last winter by energy suppliers. The prepayment meter scandal that developed last year demonstrated the sheer failings of the UK Government, Ofgem and the suppliers—these suppliers who are meant to protect vulnerable consumers and ensure that their energy is not disconnected. But that's not what we saw. We saw thousands of court warrants passed at once for forced installation, without checks being done on whether the individual was vulnerable or not and how that would impact them. We saw the sickening footage, didn't we, in The Times, of agents contracted by British Gas forcing prepayment meters onto extremely vulnerable customers. And I'm aware of other examples, from a survey my office has done, where people who need constant electricity for their medical devices for them to survive being forcibly switched with the prospect of having their energy cut off. 

The whole experience reinforced to me just how broken our energy market is and how it is completely organised to protect the interest of the suppliers, their shareholders and their executives. Deputy Presiding Officer, as Chair, I recently had the chance to grill some of these top executives from the most common energy suppliers in the UK, when they came to give evidence to the Petitions Committee. And I must say that I was (a) frustrated, (b) annoyed at times with their responses, and I've even found myself, with the agreement of the committee—and I see some members of the committee here in front of me—as Chair, writing to one executive to suggest to him that it was not appropriate for him to come to a committee of the Welsh Parliament and suggest that if people didn't have prepayment meters they would stop paying their energy bills and they would go on holiday. I'm waiting for the response from the executive. I would be grateful for his clarification and evidence on that matter, because—.  

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour

Would you be willing to tell us who that was, what company that was? Or, I understand if you wouldn't like to. 

Photo of Jack Sargeant Jack Sargeant Labour

I'm very happy to name the individual. The individual was Andrew Ward, from Scottish Power. It's on the public record; it's there for those to see on Senedd.tv, if they need to. My letter will be public as well, and so will his response to the committee. Because it's the view of people like that, and the sort of view of individuals like that, who are really struggling to support the most vulnerable people, isn't it? And that's the problem that we're here to discuss, about supporting the most vulnerable, living and surviving in an energy crisis that has no place in society at all, and what Hefin David rightly said towards the end of his contribution, that we have a collective responsibility to do something about.

I am grateful to the Minister for her leadership on this very matter. I'd be grateful if she, once again, could reaffirm the Welsh Government's position on banning the forced installation of prepayment meters.

This debate, Dirprwy Lywydd—and I see time is winding up slowly—this debate is part of the solution needed to protect the residents of Cymru next winter. I do, again, want to thank Hefin David and Members who have supported this motion. I hope the whole Senedd can come together in agreement with this motion. It is a very important one. I also want to thank Bethan Sayed and Climate Cymru for everything they've done to support vulnerable residents. And, as I said at the start, if Members haven't signed the pledge, then they should do. Diolch.

Photo of Sioned Williams Sioned Williams Plaid Cymru 3:43, 14 June 2023

I'd like to thank Hefin for bringing forward this Member's debate and also Bethan Sayed for all her work—of course, our former colleague, here on the Plaid Cymru benches. And I'm glad to be one of the motion's supporters, and Plaid Cymru wholeheartedly supports the motion, as it encompasses the actions, as has been said, that are needed now during the warmth of summer to help households in Wales during what will be an upcoming cold and difficult winter. Because although our energy bills may be slightly less high at the moment, as the sun dries our clothes and warms our houses, they're still not normal. This really needs to be underlined: 80 per cent higher than at the start of the energy crisis, and still completely unaffordable for far too many families.

From July, when the Ofgem price cap comes into effect, the typical annual energy bill will be £2,074. That means there will be 6.6 million households in fuel poverty across the UK. That's up from 4.5 million in October 2021. And we know, from many reports that have been published so far this year, that there is a great concern that next winter will be difficult—even, in some cases, more difficult than the last. As the motion states, we're facing multiple crises, and, as with so many crises, it's the poorest in our communities and those that have intersecting inequalities that feel the impact the most. 

Barnardo's Cymru stated in their recent report that the most common concern for households in Wales is meeting heating and food costs due to rising prices. Targeted support must be provided to get these families through this deeply difficult winter ahead. Figures from Citizens Advice Cymru show us people are already struggling with debt, and energy debt advice is the most common issue they're dealing with. We've heard report after report quoted in debates in this Chamber about that need for better targeting, co-ordination and delivery of the support that is available.

The Senedd supported my call for a Bill to ensure that every £1 of Welsh support goes to the right pocket at the right time, as easily and quickly as possible. Support must be effective, and its delivery streamlined, and yet we still don't have that Welsh benefits system in place that Plaid Cymru has long advocated for, with a statutory element to local authority delivery of these support payments. This could ensure the support schemes that must be instituted next winter are made even more efficient, getting that support to the people who need it. We need to learn the lessons of last winter to know how much support is needed and where. So, what evaluation has been done, Minister, of, for example, the Welsh fuel support programme? What new proposals does the Government have to help families through this year's hard winter? And what progress has been made to ensure the way we do that is improved?

The Warm Homes programme encapsulates the aims of the Warm This Winter Wales campaign like no other single measure, in my opinion, and is therefore absolutely key to this debate. It's deeply and truly concerning that the next iteration of the programme has been so delayed. Actually, it's more than concerning; I think it's scandalous, and I think it's irresponsible.

We on the Equality and Social Justice Committee received the same answer for over a year to the questions we raised in our work regarding the new proposals, although the consultation on those new proposals closed in April 2022. I'd like to share an example of how worrying the Government's response has been on this: when we received unclear answers on the Government's plans from the Minister for Social Justice during a scrutiny session on debt and the cost of living, we wrote to her to ask for more clarity on proposals and timescales, and, in response, we were sent the answer from the Minister for Climate Change to a written question from me. We had to write again before we were given the answer many of us have now been receiving for months, which didn't shed much light.

Dirprwy Lywydd, this is absolutely urgent work that meets a desperate need to improve the energy efficiency of fuel-poor homes in Wales, to make them warmer, greener, healthier places to live, with energy bills that are permanently lower. And yet it seems this has not been given the focus it deserves. So, I hope, in response to the debate, we will receive the answer, that that e-mail pops into our inboxes, that the fuel-poor households of Wales get a clear answer, the answer they deserve, the answer that will give us faith that the Government has a coherent and deliverable plan, and that the timetable for this work is beyond vague indications.

So, Minister, what is the timeline for the new iteration of the Warm Homes programme? When will it be operational? Not what month, not 'by the winter', or 'the end of the winter' answers, please, which could actually mean it's the beginning of next spring. Can you tell us more about any change in eligibility criteria? What will be the threshold of any cap on support? And, crucially, how are you ensuring that this work will not slip any further? Diolch.

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative 3:49, 14 June 2023

More than 80 per cent of fuel-poor households in Wales live in inefficient homes, higher than in any other UK nation, highlighting National Energy Action Cymru's concerns that current schemes are insufficient to deal with the scale of fuel poverty in Wales, and their call for guaranteed support for the worst first. There is an urgent need to upgrade the energy efficiency of fuel-poor homes in Wales, including owner-occupied and private rented sector homes, to make them much warmer, greener, healthier places to live, with energy bills that are permanently low.

In a letter in response to me as chair of the cross-party group on fuel poverty and energy efficiency in April, the Minister for Climate Change stated that she expects to procure a new demand-led scheme to replace Nest by the end of the calendar year, adding this will enable the new scheme to be awarded late autumn and mobilised over the winter, with delivery expected from late winter. The cross-party group believes it is imperative that the Welsh Government now implement the new Warm Homes programme with urgency, ensuring that the replacement demand-led scheme for NEST is operational this winter with eligibility and scale confirmed.

The Senedd’s Equality and Social Justice Committee report on fuel poverty and the Warm Homes programme makes several welcome recommendations regarding the next iteration of the Warm Homes programme, including for the Welsh Government to ensure the programme embeds the fabric and worst-first approach to retrofitting, targeting the poorest households in the least efficient homes; is bigger in scale, with smarter, less restrictive eligibility criteria, and greener in its interventions; looks to cover the cost of enabling works; removes the single application cap to help accommodate multiple measures and designs a more intelligent means of limiting costs; and is backed by a robust data collection, monitoring and evaluation framework with a fit-for-purpose quality assurance regime. This remains the best lasting way of tackling fuel poverty, reducing the amount of energy fuel-poor households need to use to heat their homes in the first place and providing a permanent reduction in energy bills.

In the years to come, the next scheme and programme will need to be backed by sufficient increased funding if the Welsh Government is to meet its 2035 fuel poverty targets and contribute to its efforts to reach net zero. And if, as we heard from Hefin David, the Welsh Government is issuing a policy statement on its Warm Homes programme today, it is imperative that the scheme is operational as soon as possible. Further important detail, including eligibility and scale, must be confirmed.

Unprecedented steps were taken by the UK Government to support people with the cost of living following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and its massive impacts on global food and fuel prices and the pressures on the economy caused by the pandemic. Amongst other things, this enabled the Welsh Government to double the winter fuel support scheme payment to £200 for eligible households to help with fuel prices.

Speaking here as Chair of the cross-party group on fuel poverty and energy efficiency last year, I called for the scheme’s eligibility criteria to be extended and was grateful when the Minister subsequently did this. However, questioning the Social Justice Minister here in January, and again last month following the Welsh Government’s announcement that it was not continuing the winter fuel scheme beyond 2022-23, I asked her whether this would be scrapped entirely, replaced by the original £100 payment or replaced by something else. I’d be grateful if the Minister could answer this now.

Further questioning her here last month, I noted her confirmation to my office that, although the Welsh Government had made up to £90 million available for payments to eligible low-income households under the 2022-23 winter fuel support scheme, and estimated that approximately 427,000 households will be eligible, less than £65 million had been spent by 28 February this year when applications closed, with local authorities across Wales reporting that just 316,000 households had applied and that only 341,468 had received a payment. I asked the Minister whether this underspend would therefore be carried forward, and if not, why not. However, it was not confirmed if this underspend will be carried forward to help the most vulnerable in fuel poverty. Again, I would be grateful if the Minister could answer this now. 

Lessons also need to be learnt on how benefit take-up is maximised in the future. As the Bevan Foundation reiterated in April, the Welsh Government should establish a coherent and integrated Welsh benefits system for all the means-tested benefits it is responsible for.

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative

We will be supporting this motion.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour

The sun is indeed beating down, but it really isn't that hot. I'm absolutely shocked that National Grid has recommissioned a coal-fired power station in order to meet demand to enable people to run air conditioning. You couldn't make it up, could you? It's not 40 degrees, but it will be if we don't change our ways. National Grid absolutely hasn't got it, and nor indeed has the population of the UK, because people are not explaining this to them. And if we don't have better-insulated houses, we're going to simply go on like this. It's total madness, and it's as if we didn't have a climate emergency.

We have 600,000 households living in fuel-poor homes who are absolutely between a rock and a hard place: they don't have the money to insulate their homes and they don't have the option to move to renewable energy. A majority of them are living in private rented homes. If that's what people who own their own home want to do, that's their problem, but our problem is those who are living in private rented housing who have no options, because if they start kicking up a row with their landlord, they'll just be kicked out. We're bottom of the European league table, and Wales has the coldest of all the homes that we have across our nations and regions.

It's over a year since the Equality and Social Justice Committee's report on fuel poverty, and we still don't have a refreshed Warm Homes programme. This is really, really serious. Because it simply isn't there to address the criticism of the previous programme, which was identified in detail by Audit Wales in November 2021, and here we are, being told we won't even have one by November 2023. As Jane Dodds has pointed out, it would take 134 years to rectify the insulation of people's homes. So I am really fearful for next winter, because we won't even have the additional support that was given to households by either the UK Government or the Welsh Government. It is really going to be a disaster. So, we really do have to look at solutions—I agree with you, Hefin David, and thank you very much for organising this debate.

I was looking up a report that I was involved in in the fourth Senedd with some of my colleagues, including John Griffiths and Julie Morgan, as well as Llyr Huws Gruffydd. It was published in March 2016. We needed 'A Smarter Energy Future for Wales', and our recommendations were that we aim to meet all of our energy needs from renewable sources, in the context of the need to reduce carbon emissions by, at that time, 80 per cent by 2050, and we need to set a target date for achieving this.

When you look at what we've actually achieved, it is pretty pathetic. That is the alternative that people need to be offered: you don't need to have the expensive gas and electricity that is determined by the magic price of the gas that day, which is just a guarantee for the energy companies who just want to go on doing the same old same old that's causing all the problems.

The other thing that we recommended was that we urgently need to revise the building regulations to ensure that all new houses are built to 'near zero' energy standards. If Lord Deben can be calling for a levy on all house builders who build more than 100 homes to reimburse all these homeowners who've just been dumped on, having to retrofit their homes because they'd been so inadequately built, surely the Welsh Labour Government can come up with something as fierce as that.

And equally, I'm just looking at what Ukraine has achieved since Russia invaded in February last year: they built enough renewable energy generation to power 200,000 homes 60 miles from the front line, generating 114 MW of electricity. England produced 1 MW of electricity with two offshore wind turbines. And Wales, which has—I've got a list of all the publicly owned energy programmes, whether they're community or individual households, local authorities, other public sector—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:59, 14 June 2023

You need to conclude now, Jenny, please.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour

The total is 581 MW for all these organisations throughout all the years that we've ever done this. We absolutely need to have an ambitious renewable energy programme, and it's an emergency; not a nice-to-have—an emergency.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru


I'd also like to thank Hefin for staging this debate, and to Climate Cymru and Bethan Sayed for their work with this campaign. It is so very important. Many Members have already mentioned the cost-of-living crisis, and as we've heard, it is a crisis—the fact that simply staying alive now for so many people is a critical matter. And as we've already heard, it's not a matter of keeping warm for the coming winter alone. The campaign is focused on the need to find more sustainable solutions to tackle the climate and nature emergencies that we've heard so much about, to help people who are vulnerable now, but also to assist future generations.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 4:00, 14 June 2023

Because these crises overlap. There's a social justice driver here in helping people who are struggling now, and in preventing climate catastrophe from condemning future generations to a life of cold, misery and darkness. This campaign is calling for significant radical increase in investment in renewables like solar and wind energy, focusing on empowering community schemes and protecting our natural world. Now, I join them—and I certainly, again, am very grateful that this debate is happening—in calling on the Welsh Government to redouble efforts to set up Ynni Cymru, and to explore what further devolved powers are necessary so that Wales can benefit from our natural resources. We are a country that is so rich in those resources, but we are at present locked out of benefiting from their potential. Devolving further powers over water and over the Crown Estate are two of the major changes that need to be seen urgently. 

And again, from a social justice perspective, it's of utmost importance that we support workers who are currently working in carbon-heavy industries so that they can gain new skills. We cannot stand by and allow another generation of workers in Wales to be disempowered by large-scale changes to their industry. The lessons from Thatcherism are still being felt, so this is a revolution, a change, a radical shift in how we sustain our lives, and that needs to happen with the people by empowering people, not by taking things away from people. 

Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat

You're talking there about moving workers from carbon-heavy industries to green industries, and we've suggested a transitional universal basic income would be one way of doing that. I don't know if you'd agree with that approach. Diolch yn fawr iawn.  

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru

Diolch, Jane. I think that that is certainly—. It's exactly these kinds of radical—well, it shouldn't be radical, but radical ideas, thinking outside the box—bold—that need to be thought of, because as has been—. Jenny's made this point; other people have made the point too that if we keep on doing what we are doing now, well, there won't be a planet left for us to save, and it's the people in those most vulnerable positions who are going to be most at risk. So, certainly, if we can do anything to empower people in those situations, I fully agree with that sentiment—

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru

—because we have to change the way that we live. The days of market forces deciding who should be able to stay alive comfortably, frankly, they must be confined to history. The changes that are being proposed here are long overdue and they are simultaneously urgent, so I really urge Members to support this motion. Diolch yn fawr. 

Photo of Vikki Howells Vikki Howells Labour

Thank you to the Members for Caerphilly, Mid and West Wales and Alyn and Deeside for tabling this motion today. I was pleased to sign up in support of the motion, and I'm grateful to have the chance to speak in support of it today. As the motion sets out, people in the communities that we represent are facing a relentless succession of interrelated crises and challenges. All of us are affected by these combined pressures. However, and as the motion also reminds us, it's the most vulnerable groups in our society who are most affected. For example, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health notes that energy increases are likely to affect the most vulnerable households more severely. We know that fuel-poor households live in less energy-efficient properties, so their energy cost increases are likely to be far higher than average. And that's without exploring the sheer criminality of the prepayment meters, which penalise the most vulnerable. 

I endorse the call from the Warm This Winter campaign, as it's clear that we must take action to support the most vulnerable. The Welsh Government has proactively brought forward a range of successful initiatives that have made a real difference to the people around us: the winter fuel support scheme, the cost-of-living payment, extra funding for the discretionary assistance fund, the fuel voucher scheme and funding for warm hubs. Regarding these, I'd just like to take a few moments to pay tribute to the volunteers in my constituency of Cynon Valley who have risen to the challenge. A robust network of winter welcome centres has been developed throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf, supported by the council, and offer local people somewhere warm and safe to go.

To use just three examples that I've visited over the course of the last winter, I went along to Abercwmboi community group to see the weekly warm hub that they provide at the Cap Coch Inn; the Cornerstone Church in Cwmbach offers a twice-weekly warm hub to people in the community; and the award-winning volunteers at Lee Gardens Pool run a weekly winter welcome service in the Penrhiwceiber old age centre. Now, all these projects offer local people somewhere to stay warm, to not have to worry about energy costs, but they do far more than that as well. The centres provide food for people who need it, offer somewhere for people to have a chat, some company, to tackle social isolation. This was something that really came across and was really appreciated when I spoke to people accessing these schemes. So, I want to place on record my sincere thanks for all of the volunteers across Cynon Valley and across Wales who make schemes like these happen.

However, as the motion reminds us, these initiatives, as important as they are, do not offer a permanent solution to the trials that our communities face. I support the motion's call for the Welsh Government to work to implement a solution that meets this challenge head on, using the levers that it controls and the powers that we do possess. I look forward to the Minister setting out her response to this point. But, perhaps, most of all, we need the UK Government to take action to fix the broken energy market, to fix the cost of energy. Whereas residential gas prices we pay are only just above the European average, we actually pay the third highest residential electricity prices in Europe. The support provided by the UK Government to households and businesses to meet the costs of energy are only around half of those provided by the German Government. Ministers in Westminster can and must do more. So, I hope that we can all support this motion today to send the strongest possible message. Diolch.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:07, 14 June 2023

Before I call the next speaker, since it's been referenced several times this afternoon already, the Government has published its written statement on the Warm Home programme, so you can all have a quick look at it on e-mail if you want. Heledd Fychan.

Photo of Heledd Fychan Heledd Fychan Plaid Cymru


Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd. I would like to thank Hefin David for bringing forward today's debate, one that's very important, as has already been outlined by so many Members in the Chamber already, and one I'm very pleased to support. There's no doubt that the Climate Cymru Warm This Winter campaign is one that a number of us have been pleased to support from the beginning, and I'd like to thank everyone related to the campaign and the excellent promotional work by Bethan Sayed. It's certainly ensured that people on the ground too are part of this campaign, that people in communities can see that there is something practical that they can do and be part of that wider campaign, and that's why so many are supporting it, of course.

I represent South Wales Central, so I know how important this campaign is. After all, this is the region that has been impacted by the climate crisis and nature crisis in a very real way in the past few years, as we saw with the damaging floods in 2020 and the ongoing threat to areas as we face extreme weather. This is also the region with some of the most deprived communities in Wales, where child poverty and the use of foodbanks are increasing. Indeed, it breaks my heart seeing on a daily basis the impact of political choices on people's lives, and they are political choices, we have to be honest about that, policies such as austerity, not continuing with the universal credit uplift, and, as we've already heard, allowing energy companies to charge a fortune whilst continuing to make a huge profit. This is immoral.

Jane Dodds spoke about people making the choice between having a warm home or food on the table, well, now, a number of our families can't afford to do either of those things. It is a very serious situation. We heard what Jack Sargeant said about the kind of offensive comments that people are going to go on holiday. Well, people don't have the money for the fundamentals and the basics. That's the reality in our constituencies and regions.

Photo of Heledd Fychan Heledd Fychan Plaid Cymru 4:09, 14 June 2023

I think we also need to be honest in terms of how it is people living in poverty who are having the least impact on the environment in terms of the climate crisis. They don't have cars, because they can't afford them. They don't waste energy, because they watch every penny. They don't travel abroad by aeroplane; they use public transport where it is available to them. So, when we talk about people making changes, we need to ensure that we are targeting the people who are having that impact on the environment. And I don't think it's fair when we're preaching to people about the need to save energy, and so on—. Most people are doing everything possible, and that's why things like the Warm Homes schemes and ensuring that retrofitting is absolutely essential, because people aren't being wasteful with their energy.

And people are struggling to pay their bills. We've just received in our inboxes the Citizens Advice decarbonisation dashboard, and I would like to draw attention to that, because it does show that in Wales, almost one in two constituencies requires an average spend of over £15,000, compared to north-east England, where fewer than one in five homes require this level. If you look further into the statistics, they show that one in 10 customers in February of this year were behind on their energy bills, and this was an increase of 175 per cent from April 2020. I was really interested to see the figures then in terms of the region I represent. In Rhondda, 65 per cent homes require high investment, an average of £15,000, and in Cardiff Central, 63 per cent of homes. Every constituency in the region I represent is way over that 50 per cent. So, this is significant. The analysis by Citizens Advice is also interesting in terms of the number of jobs that this potentially could create. In just South Wales Central, 10,095 jobs—very significant when we've been hearing of job losses.

I was also interested in the analysis that a minimum that could be saved to the NHS by investing in homes in South Wales Central alone is between £25 million and £33 million—that’s a significant saving. So, it's trying to look at this issue—they are interconnected; we've obviously connected in terms of the climate emergency, heating, but in terms of savings with the NHS and so on, we have a future generations Act here in Wales. Every policy should be working together, but they are not. We talk about pitting budget against budget. We need to do this properly. We have an opportunity, and it’s people in our constituencies and regions who are suffering if we get it wrong.

Photo of Alun Davies Alun Davies Labour 4:12, 14 June 2023

I’m grateful to Hefin David for bringing this forward and to the work of Climate Cymru in bringing this to national attention. It's an absolute tragedy. It's a real tragedy that, on the warmest days of the year through the summer, there are many people who we represent in all parts of the country who are terrified about what's ahead of them. Terrified of the winter, terrified of the cold that they know that they will feel when the winter bites. Terrified of the impact of that. Children who can't sleep in bed at night because they're cold and are then unable to learn the following morning, because they're cold. Older people who are afraid to turn on the heating because they know they can't afford to pay the bills, and this in the twenty-first century. We should be ashamed of ourselves, all of us.

I recognise the work that the Welsh Government has done. I recognise, as well, the work of the United Kingdom Government in responding to the emergency that we have faced over recent months. But it is wrong. It is wrong for Ministers, either here or in London, to simply blame the situation in Ukraine for the situation we're facing today. This is not an accident of history; this is a lack of planning and a lack of foresight, and a lack of courage to take difficult decisions ahead of us. Because the climate crisis is not new, the crisis in energy production and energy distribution is not new. It's a failure of planning that has created the situation we face today. In that way, the situation in Ukraine is the catalyst and not the cause of the crisis that is facing people in all parts of the United Kingdom. We have to learn the lessons of this crisis, and for me, these lessons are twofold. First of all, whilst the help and support from the Welsh and UK Governments has been appreciated by those people who are suffering from fuel poverty today, we can't continually rely on what will always be temporary measures to support the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. We have to change the way that we do energy in the United Kingdom, and that is the second point that I wish to make.

We need to plan for energy for the future. We need effective regulation. From my point of view and my analysis, Ofgem has failed completely over the last few decades to deliver the regulation that will deliver the prices and energy security that this country has the right to expect from its regulators. It has been a failure of the regulated market to deliver the investment that that market needs to deliver energy at an affordable price for people up and down the country, and we need to be able to say that. But we also need Governments to invest in future energy security and sustainability as well. We need the Welsh Government—and I hope the Minister will address this—to be supportive of the investments in distributed generation and in nuclear over the coming months and years. We need to know that the Welsh Government will support the small-scale modular reactors that could deliver baseload supply up and down the country. We need the Welsh Government to be a partner there. I know the Welsh Government worked hard with the Member for Sir Fôn to support the investment in Wylfa, and we appreciate that, but we need to plan this as well.

Minister, what I want to see from you, in terms of your response, is also what is the Welsh Government going to do to deliver distributed generation, small-scale local generation of energy, to bring together the climate policy with social policy, with economic policy. This is not rocket science; it's the basics. It's being delivered in other countries and it needs to be delivered in this country as well.

Photo of Buffy Williams Buffy Williams Labour 4:17, 14 June 2023

I'd like to thank Hefin David and Climate Cymru for bringing forward this debate. The Chancellor stated today that there is much still to do to grow the economy and that we must stick to the plan to halve inflation. This comes off the back of no intervention to stop rising food prices and increasing interest rates, which means an increase in mortgages and other loans, and crippling energy and food bills. Together, these bills prove an impossible mountain to climb each month for families in my constituency. Working families and children are falling into poverty.

Soaring food costs have led to a demand at our food banks unlike anything we have previously seen. Churches, chapels, charities and community groups have opened their doors to provide dedicated warm spaces, community pantries and top-up shops, where residents can access food free of charge or at a discount price. We shouldn't need this provision. With less money in our pockets, we're forced to make cheaper, unhealthier options, leading to a potential costly health crisis in the very near future.

While energy companies take advantage, handing out more to shareholders than the existing windfall tax has raised, the Government's energy price guarantee only guaranteed energy bills landing on doormats at more than double the charge compared to the beginning of last year. More worrying than that, the new energy price cap will still mean residents in Rhondda pay the same or very similar amounts to last winter, which is still more than double that of the previous year. I'd like to thank the Minister for Social Justice for her answer to my written questions regarding an energy social tariff, and I understand constructive discussions with the UK Government are ongoing. Off the back of this, I'd just like to ask the Minister, once more, to continue her great work and to continue to raise the importance of this with her UK Government counterparts, to ensure our constituents, like mine in Rhondda, are warm this winter.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:19, 14 June 2023


I now call on the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt.

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

Diolch yn fawr i chi i gyd. I'm really pleased. I'm really pleased that the Senedd is taking time to debate this important issue, highlighted by the Warm This Winter campaign and Climate Cymru. It gives me the opportunity to respond and update on Welsh Government's action and our position. Of course, this is very much cross-Government; with my colleague, the Minister for Climate Change, I'll be addressing the issues that you've raised in this debate and indeed have raised in this campaign. But yes, we all recognise, as you said, that the economic pressures and the nature and climate emergencies faced in Wales have come together in Wales in ways we've not seen before, exacerbating the issues many people face, resulting in the biggest fall in living standards since records began. And the World Meteorological Organization set out just last month how the likelihood of the world reaching 1.5 degrees of warming in the next five years is now 66 per cent. Just three years ago, it was less than 20 per cent. And just as the cost-of-living crisis most affects those who are already struggling, the climate crisis will also hit the most vulnerable the hardest. And thank you for all of those contributions today from speakers who've outlined and highlighted this. The Welsh Government recognises this, and we recently concluded, as you know, a call for evidence on how we can best secure a just transition to avoid these issues, to seize the opportunities of change. My colleague Julie James will be saying more on that in due course.

In these difficult times, the Welsh Government has used the full means at our disposal to help those most in need, through programmes that provide targeted support to alleviate financial pressures, taking action to maximise incomes, and initiatives that help deliver the social wage into Wales, keeping money in people's pockets. And to give just a few examples, our council tax reduction scheme provides £244 million of financial assistance to almost 270,000 low-income and vulnerable households. And, of these, almost 214,000 pay no council tax at all. The latest data shows that our commitment to the provision of free school meals has ensured that over 73,000 children received at least one nutritious meal as part of the school day. As part of the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru, an additional 45,000 reception class pupils have benefited from the roll-out of the universal primary free school meals programme.

Now, it's also important and good to hear from Members today about the initiatives that we've taken. It is important to recognise the fact that we provided £244 million of financial assistance to the most low-income and vulnerable households, as I said. But also we provided that support in term of the winter fuel support scheme, which assisted so many households, in fact, 340,000 households in the last financial year—the Welsh Government fuel support scheme.

But we are not able to continue with that scheme. As you know, this year, our funding allocation from the UK Government was insufficient to enable us to repeat many of these schemes, but I am pleased that the Fuel Bank Foundation partnership continues into this year to provide fuel vouchers and the heat fund to support people on prepayment meters, and that our warm hubs—the £1 million we've put in—has made a difference in terms of those welcome centres, and Vikki Howells drew attention to that.

So, we did focus on our discretionary assistance fund this year, and that received an additional £18.8 million—

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour

Thank you for that, and I really appreciate the fleshing out of the debate that you're doing today. We've had the warm homes statement, and I think it's safe to say it provides some information, but is very broad brush, and I think we need the chance to interrogate it here in this Chamber. Would you be able to give us the guarantee that—? As you said earlier in your statement that Julie James will be providing further advice, will you give us the guarantee that this will then be able to be discussed in this Chamber at a date before the recess?

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

Yes, and Hefin, I was going to go on to that as I realise the statement, a written statement, has just come up, so I'll get to that very quickly. And of course, this is the statement today made by the Minister for Climate Change, and, quite clearly, you’ll need to have the opportunity to address and raise questions about that.

So, I just wanted to make the point about the discretionary assistance fund being a really important priority for us, because it does help urgent assistance to households facing those unprecedented costs for the most basic of things, such as food and fuel. You know about the work that we're doing with community food organisations. And can I also congratulate and thank not only all those who've spoken and have continued to speak about the scandal of prepayment meter forced installations, but particularly to Jack Sargeant and for the petition he's taking forward? Also, we have to recognise that, despite repeated representation to the UK Government, the energy bill support scheme—I think that's also been mentioned—of £400, a lifeline, ended in April.

So, going on to those wider issues within our devolved competence, we're breaking down the barriers to the roll-out of renewables to secure local benefit. Our programme for government commits us to expanding renewable energy generation by public bodies and community enterprises in Wales by over 100 MW between 2021 and 2026. We grant fund Community Energy Wales, that not-for-profit membership organisation supporting and representing community groups developing energy projects in Wales, and they received significantly increased support for their current three-year business plan, and that scaling up support for community and local energy in Wales. That point, of course, Alun Davies made as well. 

We've recontracted recently the Welsh Government energy service to support communities in the public sector to invest in renewable energy, reducing their bills and raising revenue to deliver local services. That funding does enable community groups to employ staff, fund projects and explore opportunities for investing in shared-ownership projects—again, a key point made in this debate and in the campaign.

So, in October, as you know, last year, Julie James announced that we will be setting up a company to develop large-scale renewable energy developments on public land, increasing the value to Wales of renewable energy projects developed on the Welsh Government estate. We've already seen communities benefit during COVID and the cost-of-living crisis from the community funds from existing windfarms on the estate, and we want to build on this and deliver the real and long-term differences to local communities.

So, yes, Hefin, thank you for bringing this motion forward. It's really important that now the Minister for Climate Change has announced the policy details to the new Warm Homes scheme with her written statement, and we expect to procure that scheme this year. It will continue to focus on energy efficiency, building on the success of previous schemes, in which we've invested £420 million, helping over 73,000 households since 2010. And of course, it is important that it's not only measures in homes in terms of energy efficiency, it's also free energy efficiency advice.

I just want to go on to the point about the optimised retrofit scheme, because, obviously, the Warm Homes scheme is within the private sector, owner-occupied homes, but the optimised retrofit scheme will continue to improve energy efficiency in the social sector, alongside the system changes being run through by the revised Welsh housing quality standard. So, consultation, finalising—as many of you know on the committees, the new standard is to be published later this year. It's going to be a bold ambition to bring our social housing stock up to the highest possible levels of energy efficiency. It will keep anti-poverty requirements at its heart, and it will improve energy efficiency. That's got the aim of supporting tenants and well-being, and all new social housing must achieve EPC A or an equivalent standard now; existing social housing must have a targeted energy pathway in place to achieve EPC A by 2033, or by a date after 2033 that—

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

So, I will conclude. Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. Welsh Government is fully committed to tackling the current crises. We can't tackle these alone; the UK Government has a significant part to play. And I would say, finally—and this is, again, responding to Jack Sargeant and others—that my call is to mandate the removal of prepayment meters installed by force by the current process over the course of the last six months. I have in my hand a letter from Ofgem telling me that 5,647 PPM installations under warrant were installed last year, and we have over 460,000 people in Wales, households, with PPM. So, I will publish that letter. I'm grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this, and to Climate Cymru for their campaign. We will be supporting this motion. The written statement has been made by the Minister for Climate Change. Diolch yn fawr.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:29, 14 June 2023


I call on Hefin David to reply to the debate.

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd, a diolch, Gweinidog. I can see that the statement has been made. If anybody ever wonders why we've got computers in this Chamber, it's really helpful to have the statement straight to the screen.

I do want to make just a point about the statement. It is very broad brush. I think we still need information on the timeline for the procurement of a new service. We need a statement on the budget—we need information on the budget—and we need information on eligibility. I'll come back to that in a second. Jenny. 

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour

Do you agree with me that actually what it is is a list of the different recommendations that have come from both Audit Wales and from the climate change and the social justice committees, which is not a policy?

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour

Yes. So, I was coming on to that. I was looking through the link that links to the collective statement, and in there it says:

'The significant number of fossil fuel boiler replacements is not sustainable.'

And then it leads that,

'By restricting eligibility to the most energy inefficient homes, the Welsh Government aimed to ensure that the Nest scheme focused its limited resources'.

And, therefore, the Welsh Government needs to be clear about what the core aim of Nest would be, and future eligibility criteria. So, then you switch to the statement, and the statement says—just bear with me a second. The statement says:

'The new scheme will tackle both the climate emergency and fuel poverty. In line with the Government’s commitment to ensure a just transition to net zero, it will focus on supporting the worst-off households in the poorest condition buildings in the owner occupied, private rented and housing co-operative sectors.'

All of that seems very broad, and I think we have legitimate questions now about how you focus in on solving those problems that we have all identified today in the debate. And I think the statement needs interrogation, it needs detail.

I think we should welcome the fact that the Nest scheme is going to be extended until the new programme is procured. That is very welcome, because it certainly gives us that window, but I think we do need that discussion, that debate. And I think we can collectively say in this Chamber that we welcome the Minister for Social Justice's view that this will be debated, and I think we'd be concerned if that didn't happen. That's the general view I'm getting from the Chamber today. So, I think that's really important. We welcome the statement, but I think what it does is, it raises more questions than it answers, and that is a key point, a fundamental part of this debate.

So, I was going to do the traditional summing up. I suppose I haven't really got much time—I've got two and a half minutes—but Jane Dodds, you said you wanted a bonanza tax. A bonanza tax—I like that rather than a windfall tax. The issue is that any kind of tax like that is a one-off, and I think you've got to have the sustainability built in as well. And I think we could talk about windfall taxes, but I think, sometimes, the public get a little bit sceptical and say, 'Okay, well, what do you do afterwards?', and I think that is certainly the case. A universal basic income might be the answer, but, again, that needs funding as well.

Jack—prepayment meters. I actually think the Minister gave you a really supportive answer there, but still more needs to be done, and I know your committee is working on this. Sioned, you identified that bills are not normal. They're not normal at this time, and debt advice needs to be better, and I think that echoes the issue I raised, that the Warm This Winter campaign would like to see more detail from Welsh Government on how they're going to support people this winter, 2023, as well.

And Delyth, I thought that your view, to sum up, in my view, was that invest-to-save isn't just about investing to save money; it's investing to save lives, and that's what we're talking about here. I thought I'd put it as you might put it, and I think that's certainly, absolutely, what we're talking about and why we say, in this Chamber, that we are looking for specific spending commitments. Those spending commitments, actually, over a period of time, will run themselves to savings and, in consequence, save lives.

Vikki Howells emphasised the role of the UK Government, but also then went local, talking about warm hubs and Welsh Government support for warm hubs being really important. Buffy, next to me, did the same thing and talked about how the cost-of-living and inflation are impacting on foodbanks in her constituency as well.

Heledd Fychan, this was another one that I really thought cut to the heart of this: people living in poverty have the least impact on climate change, but are suffering the most because of it, and I think that's a significant lesson that we need to raise. If the statement from the Welsh Government is about social justice, if the aim is social justice, then it has to be targeted at those people who are suffering most because of the actions of people who earn the most.

And finally, I do want to come back to Jack Sargeant's really powerful overall point that it's not just about prepayment meters; it's about the fact that the wealthiest people, the suppliers, the stakeholders and executives, are so far removed from reality that they do not understand the plight of people in the communities that we represent here in Wales, and that cuts to the heart of this debate.

I just want to thank everyone for—. And Mark Isherwood's point too. I wanted to pay tribute to him as chair of the cross-party group on fuel poverty and the long service he's had there, and the valuable contribution that he's made from the perspective of experience and service in this Chamber, and I think we should all respect that, and we are grateful for it. But I'm grateful to everyone for this debate today. I think we've made our point, and we look forward to the next debate on this in this Chamber.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:34, 14 June 2023


The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? No. Therefore, the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.


Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.