Uniform £100 oil payment branded ‘unfair’ as two thirds of homes face bills up, on average, £1,080
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Labour Shadow Secretary of State for the north, Peter Kyle, speaking in Westminster this morning, pointed out that while oil bills in Britain have risen by £885, in the six counties, they are up by £1,080.
Mr. Kyle asked Northern Ireland Office Minister Steve Baker if he thought this was fair, given two thirds of households in the north need to buy oil to keep their families warm this winter, a proportion much higher than in Britain.
"In Britain heating oil bills have risen from £615 to £1,500 but in NI it has risen from £820 to a staggering £1,900. Does he think it is fair that both are getting the same £100 payment?" he asked.
Before Mr. Baker could respond Shadow NIO Minister Tonia Antoniazzi interjected, stating: "It is not fair."
When he did reply Mr. Baker said the fairness of the scheme was a matter for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in England.
"The Secretary of State and I have taken this up with out counterparts in BEIS. We do so frequently and intensively and [Mr. Chris Heaton-Harris, Secretary of State] on Thursday met with the Energy Minister [Grant Shapps' department] and we will continue to press with colleagues in BEIS. I know that they are fully aware of the situation and the imperatives," he said.
Mr. Baker insisted that households in the north are to benefit from a range of energy and cost-of-living support measures being rolled out from London.
"Households in NI will benefit from the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG), reducing the per unit cost of electricity and gas which is in place from November and back-dated to October; the Energy Bill Support Scheme, a £400 payment to all households; the alternative fuel payment, a £100 payment to households not using gas in NI; and, of course, there will be the Energy Bill Relief Scheme," he said.
But when asked by Labour MP Alex Cunningham about delays in the delivery of the £400 EBSS payment in the north, Mr. Baker indicated that the collapse of the Stormont Executive had caused problems.
"He will, of course, understand that these schemes need to be delivered by officials and that efforts has been hampered very substantially by not having an Executive and I just say that we all should acknowledge that without an Executive these things are more difficult to deliver.
"We are well aware of the imperatives, as I have said earlier, and once again, I would urge all parties to reform the Executive so that we can give people the help that they deserve," he said.
Stormont's caretaker ministers were forced to leave office at the end of last month as the deadline for the formation of an Executive had elapsed.
The DUP had refused to nominate ministers following the last Assembly election in May, in a protest against the Irish Protocol of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.