APPG on Debt and Personal Finance seminar on fuel debt

On 3 May 2011 the APPG on Debt and Personal Finance and the All Party Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency Group held a joint meeting on “Tackling Fuel Debt.

Damian Hinds MP chaired the meeting, welcoming around fifty MPs, peers, stakeholders and Greg Barker, Minister for Energy and Climate Change.

Addressing the meeting, the Minister outlined the measures contained in the Energy Bill, designed to make energy more affordable by improving the energy efficiency of the housing stock. He acknowledged that there was no one “silver bullet” policy that could eradicate fuel poverty and a joined up approach across government was essential. The audience then questioned the Minister asking him how advice services for people experiencing fuel debt would be funded in future and if the Government would ensure that no tenant had to live in a cold home that was impossible to heat by introducing a minimum energy efficiency standard for the private rented sector. In response the Minister said that the energy industry needed to play a bigger role in the funding of debt advice. On the private rented sector he agreed the Government could go further and urged the audience to “watch this space.”

Both Teresa Perchard from Citizens Advice and Audrey Gallacher from Consumer Focus pointed out that advice agencies, energy companies, the regulator and the government all had an important role to play in tackling fuel debt and had to work together to ensure that people get all the money and the help they are entitled to. David Mannering from RWE nPower said that it was not in the interests of companies or consumers for energy debt to accumulate and that his company was working closely with Citizens Advice to ensure that customers in debt were treated fairly. Sarah Harrison from Ofgem spoke of the complexity of the energy market – with over three hundred tariffs available to consumers. She described the action Ofgem was taking to simplify the market and ensure that companies gave their customers clear information about the cheapest tariffs available to them. She then posed a question to the seminar and to the Government “Is simplification enough?”.