Fuel Poverty Campaigners and Advocates for Older People Back MacAskill Bill to Abolish Higher Standard Charges for Pre-Payment Meter Customers

Fuel poverty campaign groups Energy Action Scotland who work in Scotland and National Energy Action, who operate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Age Scotland who advocate and campaign on behalf of older people in Scotland are backing Kenny MacAskill MP’s Ten Minute Rule Energy Costs (Pre-payment Meters and Social Tariffs) Bill to abolish higher standing charges for pre-payment meter customers and to compel energy companies to introduce a social tariff as happens in other countries. 

The Bill which would cover the whole of Great Britain has cross party support.  It is being introduced by Mr MacAskill this afternoon (Wednesday) and has the support of MPs from four parties and one independent MP .  The Bill is being sponsored by: Neale Hanvey MP (ALBA Party); Richard Burgon MP (Labour); Angus Brendan MacNeil MP (SNP); Alistair Carmichael MP (Liberal Democrat); Liz Saville Roberts MP (Plaid Cymru); Margaret Ferrier MP (Independent); and Alison Thewliss MP (SNP).

Speaking prior to the introduction of the Bill Frazer Scott, CEO of Energy Action Scotland said:

“Hundreds of thousands of households pay more for their energy because they use a pre-payment meter. This is unfair and needs to change, especially as we approach winter burdened with soaring energy costs and financial uncertainty. Energy Action Scotland welcomes action to reduce this burden on families and to seek a social tariff that could protect the health and wellbeing of so many people, including children, older people and those living with long term and life limiting conditions like cancer.” 

Also supporting the Bill, Adam Stachura, Head of Policy, Age Scotland said:

“It is unacceptable that people on the lowest incomes, and who are often trapped on pre-payment meters, must pay a premium to heat and power their homes. Particularly now when energy prices have surged at such extraordinary rates and have long since been unaffordable to hundreds of thousands of households in Scotland.

“Rates of fuel poverty among older people are the highest of any group in Scotland and our national helpline regularly hears from people seeking help to pay their bills and cut their energy use. Our own research this summer identified that more than 4 in 10 over 50s in Scotland felt that they were in fuel poverty, and it will only increase this winter as costs go up even more.

“Around 150,000 pensioners in Scotland rely on the State Pension as their only income, and 450,000 have retirement incomes too low to meet the income tax threshold.

“Scrapping the higher rate standing charge for pre-payment meters and introducing social energy tariffs for low income households would be a big help to so many people.”

Backing the Bill which would apply across Great Britain, Matt Copeland, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at National Energy Action said:

"National Energy Action (NEA) currently estimates that 6.7 million households are in fuel poverty, many of whom will be turning to dangerous coping tactics this winter to stay warm and avoid debt. 

"With energy prices remaining high and Government support coming to an end in April, it is vital that a lasting solution is put in place to provide an affordable price of energy for the most vulnerable in society. And while standing charges are high, households with prepayment meters face difficult situations, with standing charges accumulating as debt on their meters that need to be cleared before energy can be accessed. This Private Members Bill looks to address both of these things. There has never been a better time to do so."

Welcoming the support from MPs and campaigning groups, the proposer of the Bill Kenny MacAskill MP said:

“I am delighted to receive the support of my MP colleagues as well as from  campaigners such as Energy Action Scotland, NEA and Age Scotland.  These groups are at the front line of dealing with concerns from people up and down the land who are worried about rising energy bills this winter.  My Bill seeks to end the price discrimination faced by pre-payment meter customers, many of whom are on low incomes such as the state pension or other benefits and are vulnerable to respiratory and other diseases through the winter.  By putting their needs first this Bill will literally reduce the energy price burden on millions of families across Britain.”

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