Fuel poverty leads to deaths

Tom Clarke
Tom Clarke

BELLSHILL MP Tom Clarke has warned there will be an excessive number of deaths this winter caused by people struggling to afford to run their heating.

Annual energy bills have risen by more than £200 since May 2010 and with energy companies recently announcing another round of price hikes this will add further £100 to people’s energy bills over the coming months.

Speaking during a debate on energy in the House of Commons Mr Clarke, who also represents Coatbridge and Chryston, warned: “Over the last decade there has been an average of nearly 30,000 excess winter deaths each year in the UK, the vast majority of which are older people.

“The cause of most deaths is cardiovascular or respiratory problems brought about by exposure to cold and in many cases these deaths are preventable.

“That alone is a powerful argument for saying we should address the underlying problems of the high cost of energy.”

Mr Clarke called on regulators Ofgem to take more control over the markets in order to set prices at a more reasonable level.

He said: “Energy bills are causing immense financial hardship as households struggle to heat their homes.

“We can make great statements about the markets and talk about who did and did not intervene.

“However, the reality is that we find ourselves in the current situation because we have left so much to the markets over the years and because the regulators either do not have the power to act or do not seek to use the power.

In a recent poll carried out by Moneywise, 90 per cent of people surveyed claim that they are concerned about their energy bills, and half the population will be in fuel poverty by the end of this year.

Eight years ago, the average household spent £522 a year on electricity and gas, but the figure has now risen to £1,232, an average increase of 140 per cent, while the average household income has increased by just 20 per cent over the same period.

Mr Clarke said: “People on low incomes, single parents, people with disabilities and many others are terribly worried about what is going to happen this winter.

“Consumers have been hit with huge energy price increases and they are powerless to do anything other than suffer in fuel poverty in increasing numbers, which is wholly unacceptable.”