Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-86)



  80. It is not so much individual circumstances. It is actually whether you can evaluate the scheme's success. You have to generalise in some of it, but what we are being told on the one hand is that it is hard to break down that information. The question is: are you also finding it hard to break down?
  (Dr Jackson) We do not see our role as evaluating and judging individual company schemes. That is something for them to do themselves. What we do is raise the awareness and understanding of the individual schemes between companies and then individual companies can pursue any further information with the company offering the scheme. It is not our role and we do not have the ability to evaluate individual schemes.

  81. What is the point if you do not really evaluate the schemes which are being put to the customers?
  (Mrs Kirkpatrick) We are not an accreditation board.

  82. No, but what we are asking is that if you do not understand the formula and whether it is beneficial, what is the point of having you around?
  (Mrs Kirkpatrick) The task force has produced a lot of significant work on co-operation. It has not set out to be in any sense judge or jury, but it has set out to both foster enthusiasm and interest in the issues and to share good practice and ideas. It is inconceivable that the companies will spend the time and effort and resource in order to get nothing out of it which is of benefit to their customers. This is an art of getting things right for reasons way beyond just the corporate self-interest. This is something which I seriously believe has been tackled by companies with a very strong moral sense as well as a very strong business sense. As I said earlier, and I hope I conveyed properly, our difficulty is that on a national scale the figures are statistical rather than real and although the statistics are probably very accurate indeed, what that means in output terms, in real terms, is very much more difficult to gauge. I am sure on a company by company basis, a scheme by scheme basis, such information would be available. Who would collect it and how it would be presented is another issue.

  83. Are you a little worried that we cannot evaluate the schemes but what we can say is that they are good moral chaps so it will be all right, do not worry, they have the best interest of the customers at heart? If you ask most customers, they do not think that. They actually think the opposite. What makes you think differently?
  (Mrs Kirkpatrick) I speak as I find usually.

  84. If you cannot evaluate you just guess.
  (Mrs Kirkpatrick) No, I did not say that. What I am trying to get to is that evaluation of schemes is not something which can be done with a very broad brush stroke. It is difficult enough when you do not know where these people are and you are in difficulties in identifying how to target them. Once you have targeted them, however, it is quite clear from the figures that you heard from Centrica that you can then quantify the amount, for instance, of unclaimed benefit, which is subsequently claimed. The quantification is fine now at the level at which you have identified the people you want to help. The issue on the broader brush is that where these people are is a really very difficult science indeed. For all sorts of good and proper reasons there are obstacles to information, to details, to addresses and so on and so forth.

  85. Which would you say was the best initiative which has come forward and which has been shared with other companies?
  (Mrs Kirkpatrick) There is merit in a lot of what you have in your evidence. There is great merit in what you have heard today. You, if you were me, would not want to sit here and sit in judgement.


  86. We may have to later. We asked you of the half million how many you were responsible for and you told us you could not answer. Within the half million there are probably other bits and pieces as well such as non-EESoP, non-EEC schemes. By definition these are non-obligatory. These are ones which are done out of the goodness of your corporate hearts. How many people have been assisted by them? Do you have any idea of the X thousand? What proportion do you think you have done because it was desirable to do them rather than because there was some sort of carrot and stick? Any idea?
  (Ms Harrison) I do not have numbers with me, but we could provide some numbers. Certainly Jigsaw is an example of a fuel poverty scheme which is nothing at all to do with energy efficiency or the commitment and where we are targeting at trying to give access to cheaper tariffs for people who are "unbanked" or traditionally afraid of being "banked". That is one example. Doing benefits health checks, although it is integrated into our Warmer Life package, is not funded directly out of the energy efficiency commitment, that is money we have put in ourselves to try to be a bit more holistic about what we are doing and have a better impact. Our partnership with Help the Aged has done quite a lot of insulation work over the years, which again is sourced quite independently from the energy efficiency commitment or has been until EESoP became an obligation for us. There are examples of things we have done which are quite outside the obligated requirements.

  Chairman: Dr Jackson, could you perhaps ask your colleagues in the working group to furnish us with some information of that kind? We realise that by definition it is not going to be statistically hard, but by the same token, it is always interesting. They say a volunteer is always better than someone who is pressed. It would be interesting to see the extent to which you can give us that. We would want to pepper our report with one or two pieces like that as well as other information. There may be one or two other points we should like to raise with you and we shall be in touch with you if we think so. Thank you very much for your help this afternoon and your frankness. It has been very good.


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