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Digital debate

A digital debate is taking place on the website Money Saving Expert ahead of the Westminster Hall debate on fuel poverty.  The digital debate will take place from 2 pm to 3 pm on Monday 23 November 2015.

Drew Hendry MP said:

Fuel poverty continues to grow in all of the nations of the UK and is set to reach record levels as further UK Government welfare cuts come into effect. Indeed it is estimated that already 2.3 million UK households can’t afford to keep their home adequately heated. It is unacceptable that families sitting are freezing in their own homes while unfair charges are pressed upon them.

Fuel poverty definitions

Fuel poverty in England is measured by the Low Income High Costs definition, which considers a household to be in fuel poverty if:

  • they have required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level)
  • were they to spend that amount they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line

Previously the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy published in November 2001 had recommended that the numbers of households suffering fuel poverty in England should be displayed using two main definitions. These are as follows:

  • A household is in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income ( including Housing Benefit or Income Support for Mortgage Interest) on all household fuel use;
  • A household is in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income ( excluding Housing Benefit and Income Support for Mortgage Interest) on all household fuel use.

The Scottish and Welsh definition of fuel poverty is set out in the Scottish Fuel Poverty Statement (2002), it follows the 2001 definition above:

‘A household is in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income (including Housing Benefit or Income Support for Mortgage Interest) on all household fuel use’

Extreme fuel poverty indicates that a household would have to spend more than 20% of its income to maintain a satisfactory heating regime.

The Scottish Government commissioned, on behalf of the Fuel Poverty Forum (FPF), a review of the evidence in relation to the assumptions underpinning the definition of fuel poverty in Scotland and this research is now completed.  However, the Forum considers that the outcome of the research, while exceptionally useful, does not support informed reason to change any of the underpinning values of the definition at this time. It is now the Fuel Poverty Forum’s intention to engage in discussions with stakeholders before making any final decision on recommended changes.

Current UK Government fuel poverty initiatives

The Government has not so far made any major announcements on fuel poverty. However, in responding to this question from the opposition spokesperson, the Minster has indicated that further announcements will be made in autumn 2015.

Jonathan Reynolds: […] The issue that we have discussed, perhaps more than any other, is the desperate need for the UK to have a stable energy efficiency policy and for there to be some serious political will to tackle fuel poverty. This Government have already scrapped the green deal and zero-carbon homes. There is no taxpayer-funded fuel poverty programme and the Government’s manifesto commitment proposes a huge drop in the already inadequate levels of insulation measures delivered in the last Parliament. That lack of ambition is disastrous for the environment and for consumer bills. What do this Government intend to do to end fuel poverty?

Amber Rudd: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I, too, have enjoyed our exchanges. He spoke as if it were our last one; I certainly hope that that is not the case. Fuel poverty is an essential part of what this Government are trying to address. As he knows, we set out new regulations under the previous Government for the private-rented sector to ensure that we reach new standards in houses by 2030, 2025 and 2020. We have more ambitious targets. We have committed to making a minimum of 1 million houses more secure against fuel poverty, and I will bring forward more proposals in the autumn.  [HC Deb 17 September 2015 c1184]

A range of measures are currently available to help alleviate fuel poverty. Targeted support includes direct financial assistance for paying bills (eg the Warm Home Discount and Winter Fuel Payment) and energy saving measures (eg ECO) to help reduce costs. They are covered in the Library Note, Help with energy bills. The Government has withdrawn funding from the Green Deal Scheme which was the main, though much criticised, policy for promoting energy efficiency in the home.


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