MPs from across the political spectrum have been demanding answers from the government on fuel poverty in recent weeks.
Rebecca Long-Bailey (Lab, Salford & Eccles) asked the Department for Health whether people in cold homes and in fuel poverty will be at higher risk from the worst effects covid-19 in winter 2020-21.
The Minister, Jo Churchill, replied:
As the United Kingdom heads into its first winter with COVID-19, the impacts of the concurrent risks of COVID-19, cold weather and fuel poverty are not yet known. In light of the concurrent risk of COVID-19, Public Health England will be reviewing the Cold Weather Plan for England and related resources ahead of this winter.
Ms Long-Bailey put further pressure on, asking what assessment the Government has made of the effect of fuel poverty on trends in the level of respiratory problems. The government referred to an Atlas of Variation of trends which will require further examination by fuel poverty experts.
Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour, South Shields) asked if the government would look at proposals suggested by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition to ensure debt relief for those in extreme fuel poverty. Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng replied:
The Department is working with Ofgem to assess the level and impact of domestic consumer energy debt this winter and we will continue to review options to support energy customers in debt, including those in or at risk of fuel poverty.
David Linden (SNP, Glasgow East) took the issue further, asking the Prime Minister:
With 2.4 million households in the UK facing fuel poverty this winter, a figure that will only be exacerbated by the pandemic, will the Prime Minister consider introducing a one-off covid-19 winter fuel payment to every household at risk.
The Prime Minster replied that the government “will consider all sorts of measures to alleviate poverty and suffering in the months ahead.”
William Wragg (Conservative, Hazel Grove) asked about support for energy efficiency, which saw Treasury Minister Kemi Badenoch reply:
The Government recognise the importance of energy efficiency in achieving our climate change objectives and tackling fuel poverty. That is why in July my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced over £2 billion of new funding to upgrade homes through the green homes grant scheme. In addition, we have a range of policies in place to support home energy efficiency improvements.
Nadia Whittome (Labour, Nottingham East) raised the subject of fuel poverty among those in rented accommodation. Prompting Minister Kwarteng to respond:
We intend to consult on strengthening the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards in due course, in line with our Clean Growth Strategy aspiration for privately rented properties to reach EPC Band C by 2030 where practical, affordable and cost-effective. Landlords will also be eligible for subsidised energy efficiency measures through the Green Homes Grant scheme this autumn.
Martyn Day (SNP, Linlithgow & Falkirk East) has demanded the government make an annual statement to the House of Commons on fuel poverty. The issue of the Fuel Poverty Strategy for England has also been raised and while it has been over 55 weeks since the consultation on the strategy closed, the Minister is still hopeful it will be published. In response to Sarah Olney (Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park), the Minister said:
We intend to publish an updated Fuel Poverty Strategy for England in due course which will provide further information on the range of schemes available to support low income and vulnerable households in improving the energy efficiency of their homes.