I've been contacted by campaigners for the Fuel Poverty Bill, a private members bill that is currently going through parliament and which would tighten up the government's legal duty to tackle fuel poverty.*
The campaigners behind this bill have reported that the Government is considering whether to kill the Bill this Friday by 'talking it out'. This would be an outrage since this Bill gives an excellent opportunity to end fuel poverty and further this bill and its measures have widespread support across the UK. The following groups supoprt the Bill : Age Concern England, the Association for the Conservation of Energy, the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Child Poverty Action Group, Consumer Focus, Disability Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Help the Aged, National Right to Fuel Campaign, SERA, Sustainable Energy Partnership and UNISON. I believe that The National Federation of Women’s Institutes are about to come on board too (and would be an excellent campaigning issue for the new Goldsmiths Branch!).
It is understood that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are willing to close the debate on Friday so that the Bill gets a Second Reading - which means it can go to the next stage on the route to becoming law, the Committee Stage.
It is important that people in Joan Ruddock's constituency contact her and insist that she supports the Bill and allows it go to the next stage. Please call her consituency office on 020 8691 5992 or e-mail her TODAY.
The Fuel Poverty Bill aims to ‘fuel poverty proof' homes by bringing 6 million homes up to the energy efficiency standards of modern homes.
The very quick background to the Bill is that in 2000 the Labour Government passed the Warm Homes Act, which required the Government to publish a Fuel Poverty Strategy setting out the ways and timescale in which they were going to end fuel poverty. The resulting Fuel Poverty Strategy set dates for the eradication of fuel poverty in the vulnerable sector (2010) and in the rest of the sector (2016). MPs and Ministers believed that this was an absolute duty – until the High Court ruled otherwise on 17 October. In a judgment that campaigners believe to be perverse (and that is being appealed), the judge, Mr Justice McCombe, ruled that the duty to end fuel poverty was not a duty at all – merely a duty to make efforts.
Put simply, the Fuel Poverty Bill reinstates the duty in the Warm Homes Act. It aims to ‘fuel poverty proof’ the homes of the fuel poor by bringing them up to the energy efficiency standards of modern homes. Joan Ruddock recently confirmed that this can be done for the relatively modest sum of £7,500 per (average) fuel poor household. In addition, the Bill will give a much-needed boost to the UK “green construction” industry and create tens of thousands of new jobs. The Bill also requires energy suppliers to provide a social tariff to vulnerable households in the short term.
Back in 2000, Joan Ruddock enthusiastically supported the original 2000 Warm Homes Act with its aim of ending fuel poverty in the United Kingdom. In addition, just a month ago (on 14 January 2009), in giving evidence to the EFRA Select Committee, she expressly confirmed that the Government “do not intend to miss the 2016 target”.
*The official definition of fuel poverty is if you spend 10% or more of your income on heating your home.