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Court defeat for fuel poverty campaign

Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged say the Government must do more on fuel poverty even though the High Court ruled ministers had not broken the law by failing to effectively tackle the issue,

The groups launched a legal challenge at the beginning of October claiming the Government was failing to meet its legal obligation to do everything reasonably possible to eradicate fuel poverty.

But, senior judge Mr Justice McCombe ruled that Government departments were not legally obliged to take action 'whatever the cost' and was taking steps as far as reasonably practicable to try to combat fuel poverty.

Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged is now pushing for a complete revision of the fuel poverty strategy to promote a comprehensive programme of domestic energy efficiency which will combat both fuel poverty and climate change.

Friends of the Earth’s Head of UK Climate Ed Matthew said: “The High Court’s decision reveals a huge loophole in the legal protection for people in fuel poverty – big enough for millions of households to fall through.

“The Government may have escaped legal reprimand, but it’s not off the hook – it still faces the judgment of the five million UK households suffering in fuel poverty today.

“We need a proper plan that makes sure that every home struggling to keep warm is properly insulated – this will lift people from fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions at the same time.”

Mervyn Kohler, Special Adviser for Help the Aged, said: “Despite today’s verdict, the Government is still obliged to end the suffering of the fuel poor - both legally and morally.  It cannot afford to rest on its laurels while millions of older people are forced to choose between heating their homes and eating a meal.  

“Although the Government has been given a technical let-off, it cannot sit by while the number of people in fuel poverty escalates out of control.  In times of crisis, people look to the Government for help – it must throw them a lifeline instead of allowing them to sink further into despair and anxiety.

“The intention of Parliament to end fuel poverty was very clear in legislation – suffering must not be allowed to continue. Low income households need crisis payments simply to get through the coming winter, but in the longer term, the energy efficiency of our homes must be improved.”

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: 'Recent increases in energy prices have made the challenge more difficult, but we are determined to do all we can to help people both this winter and in the future.'