Rachel Hopkins MP’s speech in Energy Bill debate
Unfortunately, I was not selected to speak in Labour’s Opposition Day debate titled Value Added Tax on household energy bills. Read the speech I planned to deliver below.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Soaring energy costs will mount huge pressure on households in Luton South, with ordinary people paying the price of a decade of Conservative failure.
A forecast by Cornwall Insights states that bills could rise by around 50% in April, from £1,277 a year under the current price cap to £1,865 a year.
This is going to have a widespread impact across our communities – squeezing the middle, pensioners and the lowest earners.
Citizens Advice estimate that the increase will push an additional 2 million more households into fuel poverty, bringing the total to 6 million.
I recognise that this is partially a result of the global gas price crisis, but we are in this crisis because of ten years of neglect by the Conservatives and their failed energy policy, which has left households vulnerable to gas price volatility.
So, let’s assess the government’s record – under the Conservatives, over the last decade:
- The UK’s national domestic gas storage capability has been eradicated.
- The new nuclear programme has stalled.
- Renewable energy has not been scaled up at pace.
- Subsidies for renewables have been scrapped.
- And there has been no long-term reform of the broken energy market.
It’s Conservative government’s dither, delay and incompetence that has created an energy price crisis that’s felt right across society.
The UK has the worst insulated homes in Europe, meaning households are particularly exposed to energy costs, and emissions from buildings are higher now than in 2015.
The only government scheme that began to recognise the scale of the problem, the Green Homes Grant, was scrapped by the government three months after its conception.
So, it seems under the Conservative government, the situation will continue to get worse, not better.
My constituency of Luton South has areas of high deprivation, and according to Citizen Advice research, 70% of homes across Luton have an EPC rating of Band D or below.
This perilous combination, alongside the wider growing cost of living crisis, threatens to force low-income households into further financial hardship.
It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that households have access to secure and affordable energy supplies.
So, while the government is asleep at the wheel, Labour is stepping up by proposing a fully funded plan to reduce the expected price rise in April, which includes:
- Removing VAT on domestic energy bills for a year,
- Expanding and increasing the Warm Homes Discount.
- Smoothing the costs of supplier failure.
- And a contingency fund to support energy-intensive businesses.
Labour’s plan would save most households around £200 or more, with targeted additional support for the squeezed middle, pensioners, and the lowest earners of up to £600.
I hope the Minister will outline interventions in his closing remarks that are as comprehensive and impactful as those called for by the Labour Party.
The Conservative Party voted against Labour’s motion that called on the Government to cut the rate of VAT for household energy bills as soon as possible. I will continue calling for government action to tackle rising energy bills and the cost of living crisis.