WARM HOMES AND ENERGY CONSERVATION BILL
Memorandum by the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions
This memorandum explains the proposed use of delegated
powers in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Bill and other
matters relating to the Bill.
The Bill requires the Secretary of State in England
and the National Assembly for Wales - "the appropriate authority"
- to prepare, publish and implement a strategy setting out policies
for ensuring that as far as reasonably practicable, persons do
not live in fuel poverty.
The proposed use of delegated powers
1. Clause 1(1) provides a definition of fuel
poverty for the purposes of the Bill. Clause 1(2) enables
the appropriate authority to make further provision in respect
of the definition, or substitute it, by regulations. Clause
1(3) requires consultation before any regulations are made.
Clause 1(4) proposes the negative resolution procedure
in relation to any regulations.
2. Clause 1 is intended to give a broad but workable
definition of "fuel poverty" for the purposes of the
Bill. For the reasons given below, the clause also provides the
necessary powers to refine or substitute this definition in the
light of further developments in this changing field. The purpose
is to enable the broad definition to set the framework around
which a fuel poverty strategy can be prepared immediately on Royal
Assent (in England) or on commencement (in Wales) while, at the
same time, providing flexibility to take account of future developments.
Reasons for proposing delegated powers
3. The definition of fuel poverty relates to the
proportion of income that a householder would have to spend, for
their living environment to be healthy and safe. But the definition
involves a number of technical issues, such as the definition
of household income for the purposes of the calculation of the
4. The Government's consultation document on the
New Home Energy Efficiency Scheme invited comments on these technical
issues. The consultation draft Fuel Poverty Strategy, to be prepared
by an Inter-Ministerial Group on Fuel Poverty and published before
Christmas, will set out the Government's conclusions. The National
Assembly for Wales is a participant in the Group.
5. Meantime, the flexibility within the Bill, as
currently drafted, is important to ensure that the legislation
does not pre-empt the final decisions on the detail of the definition
of fuel poverty and can accommodate the solutions that arise.
This is particularly important with regard to the requirements
in clause 2(2)(a) and (d) for the strategy to describe the households
to which it applies, and to specify a target date for achieving
the objective of the strategy.
6. There were two options for the Bill:
- include a once-and-for-all definition of fuel
- include a broader definition, and provide for
regulations to enable either
a) more detailed provision to be made in respect
of that definition, or
b) substitute a more detailed definition for the
current definition, if that was considered appropriate following
7. The inclusion of a once-and-for-all definition
of fuel poverty on the face of the Bill would tie the fuel
poverty strategies to a detailed definition of fuel poverty which,
on closer scrutiny and in the light of the changeable nature of
fuel poverty may be, or may become, inappropriate. It would pre-empt
the conclusions of the Inter-Ministerial Group and would subject
the Government to accusations of not properly consulting on the
8. The inclusion of a broader definition as
proposed would avoid that scenario. Clause 1(1) and (2)
of the Bill provide an immediate framework for the preparation
of a strategy with the flexibility to freely explore and agree
the most appropriate definition, after proper consultation, without
hindering or restricting the work of those preparing it.
9. This memorandum has been agreed with the National
Assembly for Wales.
Letter from the Association for the Conservation
Yesterday I attended your committee's cross-examination
of Government officials concerning this Bill. I understand you
will be meeting again on Tuesday to decide upon your recommendations
to the Upper House.
You will know that in the House of Commons no less
than 392 MPs have signed the Early Day Motion in support. This
is the third largest number of MPs to support an EDM in the past
For the past three years, I have chaired monthly
meetings of an active consortium of organisations supporting this
Bill. This has included welfare, housing, environmental and commercial
organisations. We have established that this Bill has enormous
support throughout the country.
I appreciate that the role of your committee is specifically
to consider whether putative legislation is capable of being abused
or wilfully misinterpreted by Government. I also realise that
it is vital to ensure that the commitments this Bill places upon
this and future governments are delivered. As you might imagine,
it will continue to be an overarching concern of our coalition
to ensure that the main objective of such an Act is achieved -
the final abolition of the scourge of fuel poverty.
Getting this Private Members Bill to this stage has
required a monumental effort from all those concerned. It is absolutely
clear that, given the delays imposed to date, were the Upper House
to vote to amend the Bill even marginally, that would effectively
stop its becoming law in this session. The likelihood of persuading
any sane MP to go through the same angst all over again in a subsequent
session is pretty remote. Effectively, the fate of this Bill now
lies in the hands of you and your committee colleagues.
I would, therefore, urge you certainly to press for
a range of firm commitments and assurances from the Minister,
either at Second Reading or in Committee.
But I would implore you not to place before the Upper
House any recommendations that could only be satisfied by formal
amendments to the Bill. The 5.3 million households (in England
alone) currently suffering from fuel poverty do not deserve to
be so treated.
I attach a copy of our newsletter 'The Fifth Fuel'
which concentrates upon this Bill.
5 October 2000
Memorandum by Age Concern
I am writing to you to express the anxieties of Age
Concern England over the fate of this Bill, which is to receive
its final scrutiny from your Committee tomorrow. I understand
that your Committee is concerned with the scope of Clause 1(2)(a)
and (b) of the Bill (which allow the Secretary of State and the
National Assembly for Wales to define fuel poverty by regulation)
and is considering recommending amendments to the Bill in the
House of Lords.
If passed these amendments would return the Bill
to the House of Commons - but there are no further days left for
Private Members' Bills in the Commons timetable when it returns
later in the month. The Bill would therefore fail, a terrible
blow to over five million of the most vulnerable people in society
who suffer from fuel poverty.
For that reason, Age Concern England would urge strongly
that the House of Lords should pass the Bill without amendment.
We understand that your Committee has received a proposal from
the Association for the Conservation of Energy and other organisations
to accept an undertaking from the government to use the clauses
only in ways requested by the Committee. If this suggestion found
favour with the Committee, we would welcome it.
I am writing in similar terms to the other members
of the Committee, and to Lord Whitty, the government Environment
Minister in your House.
Senior Parliamentary Officer
9 October 2000
Letter from Tom Brake MP
I am writing to you concerning the amendments to
clauses 1(2)(a) and (b) in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation
Bill, which I understand are due to be drafted on Tuesday 10 October
by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, of which you
are a member.
Whilst understanding why these amendments are needed,
I am extremely concerned that, because there are no further days
left in the Commons timetable for private members' bills, their
addition will mean that the Bill will not become law.
I believe it is crucially important that this Bill
becomes Law. Ten million people in this country live in cold homes,
and 40,000 people die every year because of it. It has been very
difficult to get the Bill this far, and to have it fall because
of a lack of Commons time would be a travesty.
Therefore, I ask you to follow an alternative route.
You could instead strongly request and urge the Government to
give firm assurances on the record in the debates on the Bill
in the Lords that the clauses will only be used in ways requested
by the Committee. You could also ask for the same assurances from
the Opposition. This approach would address the problems in the
clauses, but avoid amendments that would cause the Bill to fall,
allowing the dreadful problem of cold homes to continue.
Tom Brake MP
Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington
5 October 2000
Letter from Friends of the Earth
I understand that you have been examining the above
Bill in your role on the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee.
I also understand the Committee has raised concerns about the
powers the Bill gives Ministers to define "fuel poverty"
and will be meeting tomorrow to decide upon recommendations.
Before that meeting could I ask you to revisit an
earlier report by the Committee considering similar issues with
regard to the Fireworks Bill in the 1997 - 98 session of Parliament.
In extremely similar circumstances (the Bill gave the Government
the power to define both "fireworks" and "explosives"
in regulations subject to negative procedure) the Committee
concluded that the Bill did not "inappropriately delegate
I should also point out that one of the Committee's
concerns in the case of the Fireworks Bill was that the regulations
defining the relevant terms would not be subject to consultation.
You will be aware of course that before making any regulations
under clause 1(2) of the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Bill
it is stipulated that the appropriate authority "shall
persons appearing to represent persons living in
and other such persons as [he] sees fit".
I also understand that DETR officials have explained
to the Committee that the longstanding conventional definition
of "fuel poverty" has been the need to spend more than
10% of income in order to heat the main living area if the home
to 21 deg. C and the remainder of the home to 18 deg. C. While
Friends of the Earth accept the need for some flexibility in the
definition included in the bill, as future survey methods may
lead to a definition that can be assessed more cheaply or quickly,
we would expect any change to have little effect on the number
of households categorised as "fuel poor". Further Ministerial
assurances to this effect would be welcomed Friends of the Earth.
You will of course be aware of the intense time pressure
on this Bill. Any amendment to the Bill will of course need to
be agreed by the House of Commons, and there is no longer any
time available for the consideration of Private Members Bills
in the Commons. Past experience shows that the Government will
not make additional time available.
I therefore hope that you will use your influence
to persuade the Committee to take the same line it took with the
fireworks Bill, and invite the House of Lords to seek Ministerial
undertakings as to the way in which the powers will be used.
Letter from HODIS
As an organisation committed to improving housing
resources for disabled people, we have supported the above Bill
through its difficult, even torturous, path through the legislative
process. When the Bill finally passed through the Commons in July,
we thought we had cause for celebration. It seems we were mistaken.
This Bill is of crucial importance to older and disabled
people and many others who experience the scourge of fuel poverty.
Without the measures contained in the Bill, they will continue
to suffer misery, and often illness, as they struggle to survive
another winter in cold, damp homes without the means many of us
have to keep ourselves warm and dry.
We understand that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation
Committee of which you are a member is considering the Bill and
is concerned about clauses 1(2) (a) and (b), in that they are
too widely drafted and may be used too generously by the Government.
While we understand the Committee's concern, we would urge you
not to place down amendments to the Bill before it proceeds, but
rather allow your concerns to be better tackled by seeking binding
assurances from the Government. We believe that, by referring
the Bill back to the Commons, it will fall due to lack of time
in which to discuss it.
I feel sure you are aware of the tremendous support
this Bill has secured: 392 MPs have signed up to the accompanying
Early Day Motion. Countless individuals and organisations have
shown their support. As a measure of this organisation's commitment
to its success, can I point out that I have come into the office
specially on a Saturday to write this letter to you?
So I urge you to use whatever influence you have
to persuade the Committee to seek assurances rather than proceed
with amendments. The safety, health and comfort of so many older,
disabled and poorer people depend on it.
Many thanks in anticipation of your help and support.
J Virginia Shaw
7 October 2000
Letter and Memorandum from NEA
I understand that the Delegated Powers and Deregulation
Committee has been considering the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation
Bill and that reservations have been expressed about some elements
of the Bill.
As a committed supporter of the aims and objectives
of the Bill, NEA is concerned that this legislation with such
potential to eradicate the najor social problem of fuel poverty
should enter the statute books as early as possible.
I enclose a copy of a note from NEA that endeavours
to answer the reservations of your committee. I hope you will
be able to consider this representation and may feel able to assist
the Bill in its passage through the House of Lords.
If you have an queries about the Bill or any other
aspects of NEA's work, please contact me.
Memorandum by NEA
The Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Bill represents
major progress in the attempt to eradicate fuel poverty in England
and Wales. The Bill seeks to ensure that within a 15 year period
and "as far as reasonably practicable, households in England
or Wales do not live in fuel poverty". The Department of
Trade and Industry estimates that numbers in fuel poverty total
some 5.3 million households in England and 200,000 households
Support for the Bill
The Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Bill completed
its Commons stages on July 21 2000. Overwhelming all-party support
for the Bill had already been signalled as 392 MPs signed an Early
Day Motion endorsing the provision of the Bill.
Defining Fuel Poverty
The case for a rigid definition of fuel poverty was
discussed at 3rd Reading stage. The Bill's sponsor, David Amess,
conceded that terms such as "reasonable cost", "lower
income", and even "warm" were somewhat subjective.
The relative values of specificity versus flexibility were discussed
and the decision taken that avoiding a rigid definition would
allow future improvements to be made in measuring fuel poverty
without the need to amend primary legislation if the "finer
points" of definition were to be set by regulation.
Although the working definition of fuel poverty is
generally accepted to be where there is a need to spend 10% or
more of income on energy needs this is not an exact science. Future
definitions may recognise that a lower figure such as 8% represents
disproportionate expenditure on energy costs where average household
spending is only 4% of income.
Further support for discretion in setting a definition
is provided by the devolved nature of the major factor in fuel
poverty - housing policy. Currently the DETR uses the 10% figure
to define the fuel poor whilst the National Assembly for Wales,
in the absence of formal acceptance of an expenditure figure,
uses HEES eligibility as an indicator of fuel poverty.
Flexibility in the definition of fuel poverty will
allow variety and autonomy in the approaches of both English and
Welsh agencies to the issue of fuel poverty.
NEA understands the general concerns of the Delegated
Powers and Deregulation Committee to ensure that legislative powers
should, as far as possible, avoid discretionary authority. However,
NEA believes that the scrutiny afforded by negative procedure
is sufficient protection against any abuse of the spirit of the
primary legislation. NEA would like to propose that the Government
is asked to provide reassurance during the 2nd Reading on 13 October
that it will work within an agreed framework in drawing up regulations
to define fuel poverty and that the committee does not therefore
table any amendments which could jeopardise the progress of the
The future of the Warm Homes Bill
The Environmental Audit Select Committee report on
Energy Efficiency in 1999 described fuel poverty as "a continuing
national scandal". The Warm Homes Bill is a legislative framework
that can make a significant contribution to the eradication of
fuel poverty. The Bill is an early stage in the process, has overwhelming
support for its principles and can begin to deliver real benefits
to more than 5 million fuel-poor households. There are genuine
concerns that if the Bill encounters opposition at any House of
Lords stage it will fail to become law and the "continuing
national scandal" will be perpetuated.