On Tuesday 27 April, Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, supported those who struggle to pay their energy bills. Sir David urged the Government to extend the Warm Home Discount scheme and to work with energy providers to make utility bills more affordable.
Sir David said:
Having spoken in the Chamber 21 years ago about the need to reduce fuel poverty, when I got my name on the statute book for introducing the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000—I hope that does not sound too puffed-up, Mr Deputy Speaker—I am delighted with the Government’s improvements to that legislation, which was the first piece of legislation obliging the Government to design and implement a strategy to limit fuel poverty in this country.
According to the most recent annual fuel poverty statistics published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, 13.4% of households were in fuel poverty in England in 2019, compared with 15% in 2018. Although progress has been made, which I welcome, our work needs to continue. We need to take every measure to raise public awareness about the various help options available, both from the Government and from energy providers.
I very much support an extension to the warm homes discount scheme, as it has been described as a winter lifeline by many of my constituents. At a time of financial uncertainty, many residents in Southend have relied on Government support to pay their bills during the coronavirus pandemic. If the warm homes discount scheme were not to be extended, many of the most vulnerable households would be forced to live in unsafe conditions, which would severely affect their mental and physical health, with the potential for long-lasting irreversible health effects. Fuel poverty is a real concern for many households in the United Kingdom as individuals live from day to day relying on every pay cheque to buy food, care for their children and pay their utility bills. This scheme should be extended for at least a year, but preferably at least until 2026 as set out by the Government in their energy White Paper.
I am sure that colleagues will have received emails similar to the ones I have received from worried constituents. In Southend, I have constituents who have been made redundant because of the pandemic and have been forced to claim universal credit but are still struggling to pay their bills because they have children and grandchildren who rely on them financially. These individuals need urgent support. The Government’s policy on social housing needs to be developed further. I hope the Government aim to require social landlords to bring their properties up to at least EPC band C, as social housing is Government-funded and so should lead the way in terms of energy efficiency.
I welcome the extension of the green homes grant, but further support should be given to individuals living in older houses that need remodelling as we transition to net zero by 2050. I hope that the Government will continue to work closely with energy suppliers to make utility bills more affordable for those struggling financially.