Written question – Energy support [07/12/2022]

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent discussions his Department has had with the utility companies on the paying of the Energy Bills Support Scheme to pre-payment customers. (98846)

Tabled on: 29 November 2022

Answer:
Graham Stuart:

Officials in this Department and in Ofgem, the industry regulator, speak to all suppliers on progress and monitoring of the scheme regularly. Additionally, suppliers are required to report every month on how they have provided the discount to their customers.

The answer was submitted on 07 Dec 2022 at 17:07.

Westminster diary wb 28th November

Monday

I had a meeting with Paul Scully, gambling minister at Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. He is the latest minister to be tasked with producing a white paper on gambling. There have been nine in four years, maybe one reason why it has taken so long. It was a robust encounter and views were exchanged. I await the outcome. I attended the Scottish Gas drop in event to hear from them and their engineers how to stay warm this winter. Fuel poverty is an issue that will be new to many but just as Covid highlighted many people’s precarious employment status, this winter will highlight the cost of fuel and the difficulty many households will have staying warm. I went to a meeting with Park Home Residents to hear their issues regarding unscrupulous landlords, increase lease fees and prepaid meters. With two such parks in inverclyde it’s a local issue that needs addressing. Fortunately, I don’t have any bad reports on landlords at these sites. I met with ex cabinet minister Kit Malthouse to discuss drugs policy reform. Safe to say we agreed on nothing.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence from the Rob Behrens CBE, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Amanda Amroliwala CBE, Chief Executive Officer and Deputy Ombudsman. The main thrust of the event was their annual scrutiny, but I took the opportunity to also press on the delays in agreeing compensation to the WASPI women. I dropped in to meet the National Lottery and get an update on who in Inverclyde has received funding. The APPG for Nordic and Atlantic councils was very interesting and once again I hear about trust, respect and consideration for other countries. This time from the ambassador to the U.K. from Iceland.

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Questions was a race to the bottom with Conservative blaming Labour and vice versa. The problem with this is that nobody takes responsibility and so issues are not addressed. Immediately after there was an Urgent Question on the Prime Minister’s ethical adviser. The last two have resigned and finding a new one is proving difficult. I suggested that the issue may be that the PM appoints his own adviser, the PM decides which ethical issues will be investigated by his self-appointed adviser and the PM then decides what action will be taken based on the outcome of the report. Maybe the advisers feel constrained in their role? I had a briefing from the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations and Volunteer Scotland on the Cost of Living Crisis. The role of the voluntary sector and volunteers in Scottish society is vital. Inflation and the resulting cost-of-living increases are creating a long-term and deepening crisis that impacts voluntary sector organisations, staff and volunteers. I then had a hectic two hours covering the APPG on cannabis products, APPG Faroe Islands, APPG Iceland and finally an event to highlight National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society which was attended by Alasdair Davie, a physiotherapist from Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

I got home to Inverclyde at 23:30

Thursday

I dropped in to talk with the postal workers from the Communication Workers Union who are on strike today to highlight their dispute over pay and conditions. We all appreciated our posties during Covid, we should stand in solidarity with them now. I took advantage of the drop in facility in the Greenock town hall to get my Covid booster jag. I was in and out in five minutes. Great service. The afternoon was consumed catching up with correspondence from constituents on an extremely wide range of topics.

Friday

I had two main events. I met with Tesco management to discuss their winter food collection for local foodbanks and River Clyde Homes to hear about their refreshed Five Year Corporate Plan. I took the opportunity to engage with the senior management from both River Clyde Homes and Home Fix Scotland. 

Written question – Pension Credits [01/12/2022]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to increase the uptake of pension credits in Inverclyde. (95878)

Tabled on: 24 November 2022

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many (a) individuals and (b) households in Inverclyde are eligible for claiming pension credits but are not claiming that benefit. (95879)
    Tabled on: 24 November 2022

Answer:
Laura Trott:

Estimates for Pension Credit take-up in a financial year are only available at the Great Britain level and are available in the “Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up” publication which can be found on the statistics section of gov.uk. The latest publication relates to the financial year 2019 to 2020.

Income-related benefits: estimates of take-up: financial year 2019 to 2020 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Pension Credit provides vital financial support to our most vulnerable pensioners. In Inverclyde some 2,600 pensioners already receive Pension Credit, but we want all those who are eligible to claim it. That’s why the Department launched a £1.2m nationwide communications campaign in April to raise awareness of Pension Credit and increase take-up. The campaign included:

  • Promotion of Pension Credit on social media, via internet search engines and sponsored advertising on targeted websites that pensioners, their friends and family are likely to visit;
  • Information screens in Post Offices and GP surgeries across GB;
  • Advertising in regional and national newspapers and on national and local broadcast radio;
  • Advertising on the sides of buses, interior bus panels and digital street displays;
  • Leaflets and posters in Jobcentres, as well as digital versions which could be used by stakeholders and partners across local communities;
  • Engagement with Local Authorities nationwide through the Government Communication Service local network and promotional materials to enable them to support the campaign; and
  • In June, we held a second Pension Credit awareness media ‘day of action’ working in close collaboration with broadcasters, newspapers and other partners such as Age UK, Independent Age and the private sector to reach out to pensioners to promote Pension Credit through their channels.
  • An updated digital toolkit with information and resources that any stakeholder can use to help promote Pension Credit.

In December further press and radio advertising and social media activity is planned. We will be focusing on highlighting to pensioners that if they apply for Pension Credit by 18 December, it will not be too late to qualify for a £324 Cost of Living Payment – subject to Pension Credit backdating rules.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Lords) and I have also written to MPs and Peers asking for their support and inviting them to a Pension Credit event on 7 December, where I intend to update them on our communications campaign.

In the new year, DWP will again write to over 11 million pensioners as part of the annual uprating of State Pension. The accompanying leaflet has been updated to include the prominent campaign messaging promoting Pension Credit.

The answer was submitted on 01 Dec 2022 at 16:28.

Greenock Telegraph 30th November

I recently met with Norwegian and Icelandic politicians and civil servants and was impressed with their calmness and confidence in dealing with matters pertaining to both domestic and international affairs. I am so used to witnessing, hyperbole, aggression, indignation and outrage at Westminster that occasionally I get caught up in it myself.

The language these Nordic countries use during negotiations between their nations and the alliances they seek to build and maintain is very different to the language we hear used in political circles in the United Kingdom. Rather than seek to undermine each other, the default is mutual respect and consideration. And the ultimate respect is to recognise each other’s differences and accept them. By recognising each other’s autonomy while seeking to improve their countries and maintain broader security, organisations such as the Nordic Council and Arctic Council, while not void of tensions, manage to function in a constructive manner. They actively seek positive outcomes.

Compare and contrast that with the comments from the devolved powers in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland when asked about intergovernmental relationships. They all independently said they were not respected, not listened to, not involved in developing treaties or trade deals and in general treated as subordinates. Is it any wonder that we are witnessing increasing political will for an independent Wales and Scotland and reunification of Ireland. The British Empire has been in permanent decline for over a century and the last glowing embers shall soon be extinguished. Those that need it to exist will go to great lengths to keep it alive, either through misuse of power and wealth or by being obsequious on a level as yet unseen but hinted at. Those of us that desire autonomy, equality, democracy and self- governance shall be content to see the empire go gently into the night while Scotland emerges sovereign, independent and ready to treat other as equals and importantly demanding that we are treated as equals too.

Scottish Gas – energy help for households

I met with Scottish Gas and parent-company Centrica to discuss the help and support available to households. The supplier, which stepped in to take on more than 700,000 customers from firms that have gone out of business, has pledged to donate 10 percent of all British Gas Energy profits for the duration of the energy crisis to the British Gas Energy Support Fund which provides grants of up to £1,500 to thousands of its customers with debt. In November it also announced an additional £25m of help, taking the amount it has invested in voluntary customer support this year to £50m.

In addition, the British Gas Energy Trust delivers advice and support services for customers, and has £6m in grants, energy efficiency measures, fuel vouchers and advice to all energy consumers. You don’t need to be a British Gas customer to seek support from the British Gas Energy Trust.

  1. Bleed your radiators: Air can enter the system and form bubbles at the top of your radiators, which stops them from working efficiently. If you notice cold spots at the top of your radiators, switch them off and after they cool, turn a radiator key in the valve at the top to let the air out. 
  2. Shut out the cold: You wouldn’t leave the back door open when the heating’s on, but warm air could still be escaping without you realising – and cold air could be sneaking in. Draught excluders are available from most DIY stores, and they’re an easy and affordable way to draught-proof your home. As well as sealing the joins around your doors and windows, don’t overlook extra measures like letterbox brushes, chimney balloons and even keyhole coverings.
  3. Turn off radiators in rooms not in use: It’s important not to spend money heating spare rooms or other rooms not in use during the winter, so if you know a room isn’t going to be used, make sure you turn the radiator off and close the door to stop cold air circulating through the rest of the house. When you do need to use the room, just turn it back on ahead of time to heat it up.
  4. Furnish for warmth: Think about where your heat sources are, and make sure your radiators can do their job properly. Putting your sofa in front of a radiator will absorb heat that could be warming the rest of the room.  Curtains and rugs have an important part to play as well, because thick material prevents heat from being lost through windows and doors – just don’t forget to open your curtains during the day so that the sun can do some of the work.
  5. Wrap your pipes up warm: We often come across frozen condensate pipes – which can burst or crack when the water inside turns to ice. The best solution is to stop the water inside your pipes from freezing in the first place. Insulating materials are an easy, cost-effective solution, available from most DIY stores – ensuring the pipes don’t lose heat can save an average of £15 on your bills, and prevent any costly repairs.
  6. Heat your home, not your walls: Cover a thin sheet of card with tinfoil and place it behind your radiators (if you’re feeling particularly crafty you can make it T-shaped so it sits on your radiator brackets). It’ll reflect the heat back into your rooms, meaning they warm up faster and retain more heat. If DIY isn’t your thing, you can also buy ready-made foil insulation. Households can save around £25 a year doing this depending on the insulation in their home.
  7. Check your thermostat settings: It’s easy to turn the thermostat all the way up when it’s freezing cold but what temperature should your house be? Aim to set your main room thermostat somewhere between 18°C and 21°C and you can save around 10 percent on your heating bills – an average of £115 a year – by turning it down by 1 degree. It’s also a good idea to set your thermostat to one temperature and then use a timer to turn it on and off when you need the heating most. That way you won’t waste excess energy from leaving the heating on too high, for too long.
  8. Be energy smart: Making the most of tech like smart thermostats means you can control your heating on the go and avoid wasting money on energy you’re not using. For example, if you’re stuck at work or delayed on the way home, you can use your smartphone to stop the heating from coming on too early and warming up an empty house. Our Hive Active Heating customers save around £311 on average per year.
  9. Get the help you’re entitled to: It’s always worth finding out if you’re eligible for extra assistance with your energy bills, especially before the cold weather sets in. Face-to-face advice, financial support and grants up to £1,500 are available from the British Gas Energy Trust (even if you’re not a British Gas customer). Most suppliers also offer assistance funds to provide grants towards energy costs.”