I share your concern that, in the event of a cold winter, and we have seen some very cold weather already with Storm Arwen, vulnerable older people may be forced to choose between putting their heating on or eating in order to make ends meet. This is a choice that nobody should have to make and especially not our most vulnerable.
I worry as well that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a substantial number of additional households into fuel poverty because since the pandemic started in Spring 2020, people, especially older people who need to shield, have been staying at home more, and therefore using more energy.
The Government declined to increase the Household Support Fund in the Budget on 27 October 2021 beyond the £500 million it has already allocated. I worry that as it stands this fund is only a temporary and inadequate sticking plaster.
Likewise, recent research has found that the poorest 10% of households pay on average £756 a year per person for electricity, gas and other fuels. This is on average, an extra 50% above what the richest households pay, at £504 per person on average, and more than the national average at £530.
That is why I support calls for the Government to urgently cut VAT on domestic energy bills for six months, to help people through this winter. The Government also needs to be doing more to insulate millions of homes. This would ease the pressure on households by making homes warmer and energy bills cheaper.
Furthermore, the Greenpeace report published in September showed that a properly funded plan to insulate homes and swap gas boilers for low-carbon heating sources could deliver “huge economic and social benefits”. If the current impact of rising gas prices on household finances does not provide evidence enough of the need for retrofitting our housing stock, the report makes clear the benefits this would provide for jobs, the economy and the planet. I can therefore assure you that I will continue to support calls for action on this issue, including for £28 billion of additional capital investment for the green transition and a Green New Deal that will help create hundreds of thousands of new low carbon jobs.
Fuel poverty is a stain on our country in the 21st century and that Ministers need to do more to tackle it. I assure you that I will continue to scrutinise their policies in this area and press for them to be strengthened.
Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views.