Greg Barker MP is Minister of State for Energy & Climate Change. Follow Greg on Twitter.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister moved another step closer to delivering his
promise of real help for hardworking people on their energy bills. Following a
consultation, the Government has decided to strengthen the Energy Bill further
to deliver the Prime Minister's pledge.
People cannot go without gas and electricity ,and the cost of keeping warm puts
a strain on many people. In Labour's last five years, the number of people in fuel
poverty rose by 2.25 million. That is why last winter we gave two million low
income and vulnerable households, including a million of the poorest
pensioners, £130 off their energy bills through the Warm Homes Discount. We
also helped over 12 million pensioners with winter fuel payments, and made cold
weather payments open to over four million people. A modest fall in the number of
households living in fuel poverty was confirmed on Wednesday, and while there is
still far more to do the Coalition is making progress where Labour failed.
Yet everyone understands the need to go further. For hardworking people more
needs to be done to make sure that, once their bills are paid, there's
something left for them to spend on the things they want to.
The Prime Minister gets that – which is why he has been determined to drive through
this policy to support hard-pressed, hardworking families and vulnerable
people. As a result, we will toughen up the Energy Bill even further to
- People on uncompetitive
"dead" tariffs no longer offered to new customers will be automatically
moved to their supplier's cheapest variable rate tariff.
- People who are on fixed deals will also
be automatically moved to their supplier's cheapest variable rate tariff when
their fixed deal ends.
- Everyone will have it made clear to
them what the cheapest deal is that suits their preferences and be given the
opportunity to switch.
- Powers for Ofgem to take action to
protect against poor practice by switching sites.
Ofgem has estimated that people can save up to £158 by switching to the
cheapest tariff deal, which our plans will give everyone the chance to do. Gone
will be the days when, as under Labour, the existence of 4,000
different tariffs confused people about what the best deal was for them.
Instead, by limiting the number of energy deals available to four core tariffs
people will be able to make a clear choice.
Plus, no longer will people find
themselves stuck on old expensive deals that aren't offered to newer customers
who get better rates. Instead, loyal longstanding customers will no longer be
used to subsidise the bills of new customers making it fairer for everyone and
reducing the ability of the big players in the market to undercut new entrants.
Increased competition will put a downward pressure on prices – one that everyone can see is needed.
Thanks to the Prime Minister's determination to support people who work hard
and want to get on, by 2014 we will have reshaped our energy market to give
consumers a better deal. We have already given 24 million people a tax cut,
frozen fuel duty and council tax. In taking action on energy bills as well we
will be giving people real help on the key things that stretch household