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Parliament hears fuel poverty concerns as snow engulfs Orkney

Orkney has been covered in snow this week, amid freezing temperatures, and weather warnings from the Met Office.

Fears over the impact of winter storms on pensioners have been aired in the House of Commons, this week, as Orkney is engulfed in snow.

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael raised the urgent need for fuel poverty to be reduced in our older population during a parliamentary debate on pensioners and the cost of living.

The debate was led by Wendy Chamberlain MP.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday night, Mr Carmichael highlighted the impact of the recent cold weather in the Northern Isles and repeated calls for Ofgem to play its role in the creation of a social tariff or geographic tariff to cut fuel poverty in the worst-affected areas.

He said: “While we are on energy prices, I am acutely aware that, as we speak, pensioners in my constituency are having to brave serious snow conditions and, because we have the highest level of fuel poverty anywhere in the country, they will feel literally and metaphorically out in the cold.

“Does my honourable friend agree that Ofgem has a role to play in the creation of a social tariff, or even a geographically-based tariff?”

In response, Ms Chamberlain said: “One challenge in my right honourable friend’s constituency is the number of his constituents who are off grid.

“We know that there is a lack of regulation in the sector off grid.

“One other challenge for the Government in responding to energy price fluctuations was getting a lot of money out to many people easily, and administrative issues materialised for those off grid. Many of them have still not seen the money to which they are entitled.

“We need to look at better regulation of our energy system.”

Following the debate, Mr Carmichael said: “This week’s winter storm is a visible reminder of how harsh our climate can be in the Northern Isles – and why our fuel poverty rates are so much higher than much of the rest of the country. It surely cannot be beyond the wit of man to implement a system that would account for the higher energy needs of people in colder parts of the UK.

“Now is the time to bring back social tariffs for energy, particular for the most vulnerable people such as pensioners.

“The acceptance of the need of a social tariff by Ofgem surely opens the door to a geographical tariff, which would take into account not just income but the reality of our climate.”