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Population Increase Impacts

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the impact of the projected increases in the population of England upon (a) water resources, (b) the countryside and (c) the environment. [50792]

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Mr. Morley [holding answer 13 February 2006]: In England and Wales, water resources are the responsibility of the Environment Agency, which produced in 2001 Water Resources for the Future". This strategy document considers four different future scenarios for water use, based on the Environmental Futures' framework from the DTI's Foresight programme. Annual updates to the strategy keep it up-to-date. For example, the 2004 update draws from water company projections of water use that take account of population increase. Water Resources for the Future also considers demand from increased housing, which is to some extent associated with population increase. Increases in housing might also be expected to impact on rural areas and the environment. In 2004 Defra published the Entec report, Study into the Environmental Impacts of Increasing the Supply of Housing in the UK", which was partly driven by anticipated population increase. The ODPM also have an interest in housing supply increases, through their work on buildings and sustainable communities. Defra's Horizon Scanning and Futures team is currently preparing the groundwork for a study on the environmental impacts of increasing population. T his work will look at impacts on both urban and rural environments. Other elements of Defra's work include human population growth as a component: for example, population increase is factored into our air quality and emission projections.

Warm Front Scheme

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many households have received funding from the Warm Front scheme since 2000. [53222]

Mr. Morley: Between the launch of the Warm Front scheme in June 2000 and the end of December 2005, the number of households assisted by the Warm Front scheme is 1.1 million.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many households which have received funding from the Warm Front scheme since 2000 were classed as fuel poor. [53223]

Mr. Morley: We do not collect specific data on the fuel poverty status of Warm Front recipients. The eligibility criteria for Warm Front are specifically designed to use
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receipt of one of a number of qualifying benefits as an indication that a particular householder may be vulnerable and so at risk of fuel poverty.

Households not in receipt of a qualifying benefit at the time of application are offered a benefit entitlement check, which is designed to provide both the potential of increasing household income and to establish eligibility of households to benefit from measures under Warm Front.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what average reductions in energy bills there have been in households which have received funding from Warm Front. [53224]

Mr. Morley: The average yearly saving for homes assisted by Warm Front is around £147.
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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many homes assessed under Warm Front received a benefits entitlement assessment in each year since 2000; and how many followed up their check and claimed benefits. [53225]

Mr. Morley: Benefit entitlement checks (BECs) were introduced as part of the Warm Front scheme in October 2003.

The Warm Front scheme offers these checks to potential customers to establish if they could be eligible for a Warm Front grant through receipt of a qualifying benefit they do not currently claim.

Details of the number of checks offered and those applicants later returning to receive assistance from the scheme are shown in the following table:
Number of benefit entitlement checks offeredNumber of benefit entitlement checks completedNumber of checks resulting in identification of Warm Front qualifying benefitsNumber of applicants who applied to Warm Front after a successful benefit entitlement check
2003–04 (from October 2003)2,7252,253900593
2005–06(1) (to 31 January 2006)47,88117,0725,7882,540

(1) The figures for the current year include checks offered to those households where measures installed did not raise the energy efficiency rating of the property to a level above SAP 65. These checks have been offered since June 2005.

It is recognised that, some applicants who complete a BEG may go on to claim a benefit but not apply to the scheme. Warm Front do not collect data on such circumstances .

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make an assessment of the effectiveness of the Warm Front scheme with reference to recent energy price rises; and if she will make a statement. [53226]

Mr. Morley: Recent energy price rises pose several considerable challenges for our fuel poverty targets. The Government remains committed to achieving these targets.

There are a range of schemes and policies in place that will help to tackle fuel poverty. To strengthen our ability in this regard, it was announced in the 2005 pre-Budget report that an additional £300 million would be made available to tackle fuel poverty across the UK over the 2005-08 period.

The Warm Front scheme was revised last year to provide a wider range of assistance to those households at risk of fuel poverty and so raise the energy efficiency of those properties to a level at which there will be minimal risk of fuel poverty.

Water Efficiency

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with the Office of Water Services on linking a reduced-rate water supply and sewerage infrastructure charge to water efficiency measures. [53836]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 27 February 2006]: The Water Saving Group was set up so that for the first time all of the main water industry stakeholders could work together in practical ways to promote the efficient use of water in households. It is the first Government-led high level group of its kind promoting collaborative work on water efficiency. Its action plan, agreed at the first meeting last October, includes a workstream which is looking at developing incentives for companies to improve the promotion of water efficiency.

Ofwat is leading this work. One of the options that it is considering is investigating the feasibility of using differential infrastructure charges, to encourage developers to install water efficient appliances in new developments. It will report on all of the options it has developed at the next meeting of the Water Saving Group in May.

Water Shortages

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans her Department has to tackle water shortages in the South East (a) during 2006 and (b) over the next 10 years. [53602]

Mr. Morley: Any projected shortage in water supply this year will be addressed though the relevant water company's drought plan. Drought plans contain mechanisms which trigger a range of actions to be initiated at different times as a drought develops. One of the actions may involve applying to my Department for drought orders in order to restrict non-essential uses of water.

For longer term planning water companies maintain 25 year water resource plans which seek to reconcile supply with anticipated demand. These water resource plans are produced voluntarily every five years at present but will become a statutory requirement under the provisions of the Water Act 2003. My Department is currently consulting on the exercise of the new powers in respect of statutory water resource plans.
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Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received regarding water shortages in the south-east; and if she will make a statement. [53622]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 February 2006]: We have received a number of representations about the implications for water supply of the continuing drought in the south-east. The Environment Agency has produced a report, Drought prospects 2006", explaining the likely consequences of a continuing rainfall deficit and recommending action by water companies and the public. This report is available on request from the agency (telephone 0207 863 8710) or from its website

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