Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Thursday, 8 March 2012

Energy and climate change questions

Labour and the government have clashed over help for households in fuel poverty.

During energy questions in the Commons on 8 March 2012, shadow energy and climate change minister Luciana Berger accused the government of "turning its back" on the fuel poor.

She claimed the number of households in fuel poverty had increased from one in five, to one in four, under the coalition - because of decisions to axe the social tariffs and the winter fuel allowance.

Under Labour the number had dropped by one million, she told MPs.

Ms Berger added that the government's Energy Company Obligation (ECO) initiative would only take half a million homes out of fuel poverty, in a "best case scenario".

Minister Greg Barker said it was "ridiculous" for Labour to "pretend" it had tackled fuel poverty in government.

He said the number of fuel poor households rose from 2 million to 5.5 million between 2004 and 2009.

He accused Ms Berger of "cheap partisan points" scoring when the parties should be trying to build a "new consensus" on this "very important" issue.

Labour backbencher Anas Sarwar drew the minister's attention to a Labour-run Glasgow City Council initiative offering 80-year-olds £100 to help them pay their winter fuel bills, "replacing the cut by this government to the winter fuel allowance".

He asked the minister if he would join him in congratulating the council for "protecting the most vulnerable".

Mr Barker argued that the government was "massively" increasing support for the fuel poor, citing initiatives he claimed would help more households than plans put in place by Labour.

"But I welcome any measure to help fuel poverty. But fundamentally we are going to do that by retro-fitting the homes of the fuel poor and actually improving the fabric, rather than just handing out more money to try and keep up with ever-rising fossil fuel prices."

Mr Barker told MPs figures for fuel poverty levels in England in 2010, and projected figures for 2011-12, would be published on 17 May.

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