I am very worried that, in the event of a cold winter, and we have seen some very cold weather already, people may be forced to keep their heating off because they simply can’t afford it. This is a choice that nobody should have to make and especially not our most vulnerable.
Despite my calls last year for urgent action to tackle the same issue, it is clear the Government hasn’t learnt from their own mistakes. We are back in the exact same situation, with no signs that Rishi Sunak has a plan to protect vulnerable households this winter.
From 1 January, energy bills will be rising again to a level that is unaffordable for many families. Yet I am concerned that the Government appears to have no plans for reducing bills. Indeed, in the King’s Speech on 7 November, instead of announcing legislation that would help cut energy bills, such as ending the ban on onshore wind, providing for a proper programme of energy efficiency measures or reforming planning rules to speed up renewables, the Government set out an energy policy that will not take a penny off the price households pay for energy.
It is for this reason that I support calls to close the loopholes and bring in a proper windfall tax on oil and gas giants to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis right now. I believe it is wrong to continue to leave on the table billions of pounds from oil and gas companies that could be used to provide greater support to households, when so many people are still wondering how they are going to make ends meet when faced with their energy bills.
We need rapid action when it comes to retrofitting housing. That is why I support a Warm Homes Plan that would reduce energy demand by insulating 19 million homes across the country over the next decade.
Likewise, we need to accelerate the deployment of cheap, homegrown renewables to reduce bills in the longer term. I therefore support plans to deliver a fossil fuel-free electricity system by 2030, including by quadrupling offshore wind, more than tripling solar power and more than doubling our onshore wind capacity, as well as establishing a publicly owned clean energy company to make Britain an energy independent superpower. These plans would save billions of pounds for UK households every year.
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.