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Flint_close_up_Lab14.JPGBritain is facing an energy bill crisis, with millions of people struggling to heat their homes. Under the Tories, energy bills have risen twice as fast as inflation, four times faster than wages and faster than almost any other country in the world. That’s why at Labour Party Conference last year, Ed Miliband and I set out radical plans to freeze energy prices until 2017, saving the average household £120, and fix the energy market for the future, with a tough new regulator to curb rip-off bills.

But one of the main reasons our energy bills are so high is that our homes are some of the least energy efficient in Europe – leaking heat from their doors, walls and windows. Households with poor levels of energy efficiency and insulation need to spend more on energy to keep their homes warm. In fact, energy bills in homes with the worst energy efficiency are more than double those for homes with good insulation. Yet two thirds of households have never even had an energy efficiency assessment, so they don’t know how much money they could save.

That’s why today I am publishing Labour’s Green Paper on energy efficiency, which sets out plans to deliver long-term, permanent savings on energy bills and warmer homes for millions of people, in the next phase of our reforms to the energy market.

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An end to cold homes

Britain is facing an energy bill crisis, with millions of people struggling to heat their homes. Under the Tories, energy bills have risen twice as fast as inflation, four times faster...


Caroline Flint MP, Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, today launched Labour’s plan to end the scandal of cold homes. Speaking in Hastings, and building on Labour’s energy price freeze, she announced a major drive on home insulation and set out plans to deliver long-term, permanent savings on energy bills and warmer homes for millions of people. The plans will mean that at least five million homes are upgraded over 10 years, saving the average household more than £270 a year from its energy bill.

The Green Paper is available here.




Sarah, thank you for that introduction.


It’s great to be here with you today in Hastings.


We’re less than six months away from the next General Election.


And the road to Downing Street runs through Hastings, so I hope to be back here many more times before next May.


What you’ll be seeing from Labour in the next few months is us setting out The Choice facing the British people at the General Election in 2015.


Today I’m going to focus on energy bills – something I know Sarah hears a lot about when listening to local people in Hastings – whether that happens to be a working family, a struggling pensioner or a growing business.


All of us have seen our energy bills rising year on year.


And figures I published a few months ago laid bare the full scale of the cost-of-living crisis and David Cameron’s failure to tackle rip-off energy bills.


Because, on David Cameron’s watch, energy bills in Britain have risen by over £300 - twice as fast as inflation, four times faster than wages and faster than almost any other country in the developed world.


Households cannot afford another five years of this.


Hastings cannot afford another five years of this.


Britain cannot afford another five years of this.

So today I want to tell you what Labour will do about it, and to set out The Choice that people in Hastings and around the country will face at the next election.


To start with, on entering office, Labour will immediately freeze energy prices until 2017.


In Hastings and Rye, nearly 50,000 households will save an average of £120.


And across the country, our price freeze will save money for Britain’s 27 million households and 2.4 million businesses.


Why are we freezing prices? For two very simple reasons.


First, people have been overcharged.


We’ve looked very carefully at the prices consumers have paid in the last few years, compared to the costs the companies have faced.


And it’s clear to us that when wholesale prices have gone up, consumers’ bills have gone up too.


But when those costs have come down, consumers have not seen the full benefit.


So we would stop prices rising further as a way of compensating consumers for overcharging in the past. 


But the second reason is to give us time to change the rules of the game for good.


No-one’s pretending the solutions to our energy market are simple, or can be implemented overnight.


So during Labour’s 20 month price freeze we will reform the energy market.


We’ll break the stranglehold of the Big Six and stop energy companies doing secret deals, which make it almost impossible for anyone to know what the true cost of energy actually is.


And we’ll create a tough new watchdog, with a bite as a good as its bark.


With a power to make sure wholesale price cuts are passed to the customer.


To make suppliers behave professionally.


When you misbehave, pay a fine, it’s not over.


The slate is not wiped clean.


Keep breaking the rules, treating your customers badly, and you will be shut down.


But the cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use.


One of the main reasons energy bills have risen – and will continue to rise, unless something is done about it – is because our homes are among the least insulated and the least energy efficient anywhere in Europe.


Heat is going straight out of our roofs, windows and walls.


We might as well burn money.


My plan is not just to freeze energy bills.


But, in the next phase of our reforms, to enable millions of people to permanently cut them.

Let me tell you two really startling facts.


Number one: households living in the least insulated properties have energy bills which are over £1,000 a year higher than households living in properties with good insulation.


Number two: two thirds of households in fuel poverty live in properties with poor insulation. Poor energy efficiency is the single biggest reason why so many households are in fuel poverty.


In Hastings and Rye one in ten households are in fuel poverty.


This was something we began to address when Labour was last in power.


The Decent Homes programme resulted in the installation of 700,000 new kitchens, 525,000 new bathrooms, over 1 million new central heating systems and the re-wiring of 740,000 homes.


Warm Front helped over 2 million households improve their energy efficiency and insulation, including over 3,000 households in Hastings and Rye.


But there is much, much more to do.


And it is clear that the policies of the current Government do not meet the scale of this challenge.


They created a scheme called the Green Deal.


They said it would be the biggest home improvements programme since World War 2.


The idea was a good one, and one all parties supported.


You could take out a loan to improve your home.


And the savings on your energy bills as a result of the improvements would be greater than the cost of repaying the loan.


The problem has been the practical delivery of the policy.


Interest rates of 7 per cent or more.


Hidden charges.


And, originally, hefty penalty payments – potentially running into thousands of pounds – if you tried to pay back the loan early


That’s why nearly two years after it launched, just two and a half thousand household and no businesses – not a single one – have actually taken out a Green Deal.


That doesn’t sound the biggest home improvements programme since World War 2 to me.


Then there’s the Energy Company Obligation.


Again, in theory it’s a good idea, and it’s builds on similar schemes that have existed for fifteen years or more.


Energy companies are obliged to help customers with their energy efficiency, with free insulation.


The problem?


Nearly half the money doesn’t go to people in or at risk of fuel poverty – so, often, the people who need most help don’t get it.


And even households that do get assistance only receive one measure – which is better than nothing, obviously, but not enough to make a real difference and almost never enough to lift them out of fuel poverty.


That’s why I’m here in Hastings today to launch my Green Paper on how we end the scandal of cold homes for good.


Learning the lessons of previous energy efficiency programmes, my Green Paper proposes an ambitious, long-term programme to:


lift and protect people from fuel poverty;


support millions of households and businesses to improve their energy efficiency;


and establish energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority.


It sets out six new policies to meet this challenge.


First, half a million free personalised home energy reports a year.


Two thirds of households have never had an energy efficiency assessment, so they don’t know whether their home could benefit from improvements, or how much they could save.


So the first step is to give people this information.


Second, we have to make sure that every penny that the energy companies are required to spend goes to those households that need it most.


I love Downton Abbey as much as the next person – but the Crawley family can pay for their own insulation.


If we made that change, we’d have enough money to help at least 200,000 households a year who are in or at risk of fuel poverty, and save them, on average, over £270 from their energy bills.


And we will end the ridiculous situation where we only install one measure at a time – if we’re going into someone’s home to improve their energy efficiency, let’s get the job done in one go.


Similarly, I don’t think energy companies are the best people to be delivering this.


They’re not trusted – a lot of people, understandably, simply don’t believe them when they say they want to help.


In fact, so little are they trusted that we had one case a couple of years ago of one company offering people £50 to find other people to have home improvements done for free.


That is ridiculous – and it’s a waste of money.


Every pound that is spent finding people is a pound not spent on insulation or energy efficiency.


So I want to put local authorities and housing associations and other community groups in the driving seat – because they’re trusted and they know who needs help.


That’s the second step: help to those that need it most.


But obviously, energy bills aren’t just a problem for people in fuel poverty.


So, third, we will support households who want to do the right thing and are able to shoulder some of the costs.


To do that we will provide up to a million interest-free loans for home improvements to households in the next Parliament.


That will be a big help for homeowners.


But we have to help people who rent too.


The private rented sector has highest proportion of the coldest properties and, as a result, the highest levels of fuel poverty.


But this Government’s response has been hopeless.


Its regulations will do nothing for four out of five households in fuel poverty in the private rented sector.


So, fourth, we will set a new, tougher target for landlords to get cold and leaky properties up to a decent standard.


In return for asking them to improve their properties to a higher standard, we will give them more time to do it.


That’s a fair compromise.


Taken together, those four measures, will help at least 5 million homes in 10 years.


All within the Government’s existing budget.


My plan lays the foundation for a transformative approach to energy efficiency.


But, fifth, because we know this is a long-term task, we will designate energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, under our proposed National Infrastructure Commission



Of course, improving energy efficiency is crucial not just for homes, but also for non-domestic buildings such as commercial offices, factories, schools and hospitals.


Because energy efficiency can cut costs for businesses and the public sector, insulate them from future energy price rises.


So our Green Paper sets out a number of ways we will help business, especially small businesses, save money on their energy bills too.


The message I want to leave you with this morning is this:

This Green Paper not only describes the kind of Britain we believe in, it describes one we can achieve.


A Britain in which we bring an end to cold homes.


Our country needs more than warm words.


It needs a plan for warm homes.


A plan which creates new jobs and opportunities for apprentices.


A plan which moves towards a fairer Britain, where all homes can reach a standard of comfort, and where those with the least do not pay ever-rising sums to heat their homes.


This journey reduces bills, reduces fuel poverty and by creating warmer, more efficient homes, it improves health and wellbeing for millions of British people.


But this journey is not just for a few, and not just for those with limited means.


The range of initiatives we describe offer something for everyone.


For the hardworking family and for the struggling pensioner.


In this vision of Britain, no one is left in the cold.


We make demands of landlords, we challenge energy companies to raise their game and we insist on public money delivering value for you, the taxpayer.


We do right by our planet, and we show that social justice goes hand in hand with enterprise and creating new jobs, in a more modern Britain.


This is part of Labour’s plan for Britain’s future. 


A Britain of warm homes, and warm hearts. 


A Britain we can all believe in.


Thank you.

Caroline Flint's speech to launch Labour's Energy Efficiency Green Paper

Caroline Flint MP, Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, today launched Labour’s plan to end the scandal of cold homes. Speaking in Hastings, and building on Labour’s energy price...


Annual Energy Statement – response from Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP






Can I thank the Secretary of State for what I hope and expect will be his final annual energy statement.


And what a curious statement it was.


Can I say to the Secretary of State, he looked very satisfied with himself, but…


Consumers, worried about how they’re going to afford their energy bills this winter, they aren’t satisfied with this Government.


Families living in cold and draughty properties, they’re not satisfied with this Government.


And businesses, people who want to invest in this country, create job here and put us at the cutting edge of innovation in new forms of clean energy, they’re not satisfied with this Government either.


Let me start with consumers and the energy market, Mr Speaker.


In his statement, the Secretary of State seemed to suggest that the energy market had never been working better.


But can he just confirm that with the exception of a brief spike at the end of last year – which followed Labour’s announcement of our price freeze – switching levels are at their lowest point for almost a decade?


If things have improved so dramatically, can he also explain why, according to Ofgem, in the last year the profits of the energy companies have increased, as have the number of complaints about poor customer service?


Is that what a functioning, competitive market looks like?


And for the record, would he also confirm that under this Government, energy bills have risen twice as fast as inflation, four times faster than wages and faster than almost any other developed country in the world?


That’s why, on the Government’s latest figures, fuel poverty is rising – not falling.


Is that a record he can be proud of?


One of the reasons, Mr Speaker, that households and businesses in our country have been so hard hit by recent energy price rises, is because we have such low levels of energy efficiency.


Looking back at the Annual Energy Statements that were delivered in this House in 2010 and 2011, it’s very interesting what high expectations the Government had for their beloved Green Deal.


Yet today, barely a mention.


But is it any surprise, when so far, despite being billed as the biggest home improvements package since world war 2, just two and a half thousand households and no businesses – not a single one – have had measures installed under the Green Deal?


Does the Secretary of State also regret that in his panicked response to our energy price freeze last year, he announced sweeping cuts to the Energy Company Obligation, which will result in nearly half a million fewer households receiving energy efficiency improvements?


And let me tell him, that the next Labour Government will not make the same mistakes he has – as will be clear when we publish our energy efficiency green paper next week.


Never let it be said though, Mr Speaker, that I am not a fair woman.


Some things have moved slightly further forward in the last year.


The Government is implementing the recommendations from the Wood Review, which we supported.


A greater share of our electricity is coming from renewable sources – and two thirds of the projects that have come online in this Parliament started under the last Labour Government.


The Energy Act, which we supported, is now finally, on the statute books.


Progress has been made at Hinkley too, and thanks to the European Commission, consumers will now get a better deal than the one the Government was able to negotiate.


And in a similar vein, does he also agree that the National Audit Office should publish their report on the Hinkley deal before he signs it?


But figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance published just a few weeks ago, showed that investment in clean energy this year is substantially down on last year.


And after well-publicised spats and u-turns in Government – first on wind and now on solar – is it any surprise that Ernst and Young have also downgraded the UK to seventh on its index of attractiveness for renewable investment?


I understand the Secretary of State has leadership ambitions.


Does he agree with me, however, that those ambitious, and the investment climate for low-carbon generation, would be better served if he, like 16 of his Liberal Democrat colleagues, had supported a decarbonisation target for the power sector for 2030, as Labour proposed?


The fact that we are missing out on this investment is not just a loss for the jobs and growth it would have supported, but for our energy security too, which the Secretary of State covered in his statement.


As he said, this winter National Grid are taking precautionary measures to maintain the security of our energy supply, which, again, we have supported.


But isn’t the reason that these measures need to be taken precisely because we’ve seen so little investment in our energy infrastructure in the last four years?


In our last few years in Government, construction on six new gas-fired power stations began.


But will the Secretary of State confirm that under this Government, just one new gas-fired power station, at Carrington in Manchester has been commissioned – and even this won’t be operational until after the next election?


One area, where there is probably greater consensus, Mr Speaker, is on international climate change.


Can I welcome the progress that was made with the EU 2030 package last month, which as the Secretary of State knows, we supported.


Can I also wish the Secretary of State, and the officials that will be representing us in Lima, well, as we build towards the Paris Climate Conference next year?


In this regard, he has the full support of this side of the House – even if the same can’t be said for all members on his own side.


That is, I’m afraid, as far as my good wishes will extend.


Because this time next year, I very much hope that I will delivering the annual energy statement – in a Labour Government, which has frozen energy prices, and begun the work of reforming our energy market, ending the scandal of cold homes and securing the investment that our country so badly needs.




Caroline Flint's response to the Annual Energy Statement

Annual Energy Statement – response from Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP           Can I thank the Secretary of State for what I hope and expect will...

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