HC Deb 03 July 2000 vol 353 cc80-1W
Mr. Llew Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on progress made in partnership with Transco on implementing the affordable warmth programme in advance of next winter. [127573]

Ms Hewitt

I have been asked to reply.

There has been significant progress on Affordable Warmth since my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry trailed the scheme in a speech last October. The Government have worked closely with Transco in developing the scheme, and, in particular, have amended the rules on capital allowances to encourage the use of lease financing for domestic central heating equipment which is central to the scheme's operation.

The scheme was formally launched to MPs, local authorities, and the fuel poverty lobby by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 8 June. Transco subsequently presented the scheme to Welsh housing providers in Cardiff on 26 June.

There are two separate aspects to the scheme—the installation of central heating and insulation in the homes of the fuel poor, and the development of training opportunities for those employed through the scheme. On the first of these, Transco have given 175 presentations about the scheme to social housing providers, and planned installations so far include Inverclyde Council (3,500 homes) and Derby City Council (600 homes). Discussions are proceeding with Leicester City Council (3,000 homes). Many more housing providers—including Blaenau Gwent—have expressed interest.

Transco estimate that at least 3,000 homes will be treated by the end of the calendar year 2000, and perhaps many more than that as the scheme gathers momentum. We expect a million homes to be improved under the scheme over the next five years. This will significantly reduce the incidence of fuel poverty.

On the training front, there are already three live projects: in Leicester, the first Environ Energy Advocates Project course began at the end of May, with six people trained so far and 40 projected by the beginning of December: the Fenland District Council Central Heating in Partnership Scheme (CHIPS) begins on I July, for completion by 1 December, with 50 people to be trained: the Affordable Warmth team is working in conjunction with the Gas Industry Training Organisation (GINTO) on the competition to create a training framework for adults coming into the gas installation and maintenance business.

Other projects currently under discussion include: a partnership being developed between Transco and Braunstone's New Deal Task Force, to train 200 members of the community in Affordable Warmth-related skills (10 per cent. through New Deal, 50 Gas Installation Engineers) over a three-year period; a bid to establish a consortium capable of delivering demand-led gas industry training in the London area (as part of the GINTO adult framework competition), to which Affordable Warmth have been invited to provide some funding.

Further regeneration areas being targeted include Hull and Luton. Transco expect that the scheme will create 10,000 training opportunities, with 3,000 of those becoming fully-qualified gas fitters. It is also expected that 3,000 opportunities will be made available for people under the New Deal.

Mr. Llew Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what work he is carrying out in collaboration with National Energy Action to relieve conditions of fuel poverty in the United Kingdom. [127576]

Mr. Meacher

The Department has supported the work of National Energy Action (NEA) for many years. This year it will be providing grant funding of £736,000 towards NEA's work in England, concentrating on: support to local authorities in developing affordable warmth strategies for their area; identifying how to reach fuel poor households in rural areas; and development of referral networks among ethnic minority communities.

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