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Fuel Poverty - Djanogly Grills Ministers

28th May 2002

Jonathan Djanogly questions Ministers, Michael Meacher MP (Environment) and Brian Wilson MP (DTI) on the Government's policies concerning people living in fuel poverty.

Today, Jonathan Djanogly, Member of Parliament for the Huntingdon Constituency, at the evidence meeting of the Trade and Industry Select Committee, of which he is a member, questioned Ministers, Michael Meacher MP (Environment) and Brian Wilson MP (DTI) on the Government's policies concerning people living in fuel poverty.

The Conservatives have recently successfully amended the Home Energy Conservation Bill to include energy efficiency targets. The Government resisted this, despite Labour themselves in Opposition having repeatedly supported virtually identical targets. After the Government's defeat (with the support of many of their own backbenchers), in an act of political petulance, Mr Meacher scuppered the Bill. At the Select Committee meeting today, Mr Djanogly noted:

  • That the Government had changed the definition of fuel poverty so that it now includes people who would need to spend more than 10% of their 'disposable' income on fuel required to heat their home, rather than the previous definintion, which related to 'total income'. This has reduced the number of households in fuel poverty by about 1.5 million across the UK;
  • That the Government has not come up with proposals to have (cheaper) gas pipelines extended to rural areas;
  • That the Government's own review of their strategy, in 1999, found that only 17% of grants went to the most needy and that 40% of grants went to non fuel poor households. Mr Djanogly asked for an update of these statistics, which Mr Meacher was unable to provide.

Mr Djanogly said:

"In the winter of 2000/01 the Office of National Statistics indicated that there were 22,700 older people winter deaths in England and Wales and Help the Aged has stated that last winter there were 25,000 avoidable deaths - the vast majority of which were in the old population. It was quite clear from the Committee that the Government does not have an adequate strategy on how to deal with fuel poverty and the Environment and DTI departments have not yet even had funding allocated from the Treasury to deal with the problem. The Government have dismissed Conservative attempts to set targets for a proper course of action, and people living in the terrible state of fuel poverty certainly have no cause to believe that this Government is going to solve this important problem."

Click here for full transcript of the debate as published in Hansard."

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