Mark Isherwood – 2006 Speech on Fuel Poverty

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Isherwood on 10th January 2006 on fuel poverty.

The Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru states that it is reasonable to expect everyone to live in a safe, warm, affordable, and comfortable home. However, there are growing signs that current housing policy is failing to deliver that.

Wales has the oldest housing stock of any western European nation, with 8.5 per cent of the Welsh housing stock in home ownership classified as unfit. The Council of Mortgage Lenders reports that one in two of the poorest households live in their own homes and 72 per cent of Welsh properties that are officially designated as unfit are owner-occupied. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation tells us that three in five pensioners on low incomes in Wales are homeowners.

National Energy Action states that, across north Wales, 34,000 pensioners are on low incomes or claiming pension credit and 13.8 per cent of households in Wales live in fuel poverty. Each year, there are over 400 excess winter deaths in north Wales and, last winter, the number of excess winter deaths was the highest for five years, with 90 per cent of these occurring in the pensioner population.

I was pleased to support the warm homes campaign and to visit a beneficiary of the home energy efficiency scheme in Kinmel Bay a few weeks ago. However, it is clear that much more needs to be done to target those most at risk from fuel poverty. Despite reports of a reduction in fuel poverty numbers since 1998, as we have heard, Energy Watch states that the true figure is likely to be significantly higher following the huge energy price hikes of the past two years.

Recent research carried out by National Energy Action Wales and the National Right to Fuel Campaign suggest that fuel poverty may have increased by some 80 per cent between 2003 and 2005, affecting up to 304,000 people in Wales.

Fuel poverty is a major cause of illness. Cold, damp housing causes a wide range of circulatory and respiratory conditions and is a key factor in social isolation. Children living in fuel poverty are more likely to miss school as a result of cold-related illness and to have difficulty finding places to study.

There is no better example of that than the Finnegan family in Flintshire. All those responsible, and all those who have looked the other way, should hang their heads in shame. Help the Aged in Wales says that that 1,800 older people died of cold-related illnesses last winter. That was the third year in a row of increases in winter deaths among the over-65s.

These are all reasons for tabling amendment 1. A national strategy will be meaningless without measures for assisting the people identified, and that situation is so often the case with this Welsh Assembly Government. Motions without measures are like hot air balloons without tethers—floating off into the ether, never to be seen again. This is the Government of policy-led evidence—the Government that puts policy before planning, preparation and pricing; trying to please everyone, but delivering for no-one.

Such measures should, therefore, acknowledge the call by Help the Aged in Wales for research into all the circumstances that could be contributing to premature winter deaths, including behaviour on cultural issues, availability of and access to heating grants and schemes, health and nutrition.

Only then can we deliver a focused strategy to tackle fuel poverty. As Citizens Advice Cymru states, geographical factors must also be taken into account so that fuel poverty can be tackled evenly across Wales, and to ensure that people outside easily identifiable groups and Communities First areas are not the last ones to be helped.

The Welsh housing quality standard states that all dwellings must be capable of being adequately heated at an affordable cost. However, as National Energy Action states, this commitment requires more than rhetoric.

It requires adequate resources and effective enforcement. For that reason, amendment 2 expresses concern at the slow progress towards achieving the Welsh housing quality standard by 2012. As the Council of Mortgage Lenders Cymru has stated, sadly, to date, the politics and the process have got firmly in the way of reality. The question is: for how much longer will the council tenants of Wales get less than they deserve and need?

You will recall that I spoke on the budget and severely criticised this very factor decisively and categorically. There is a housing crisis in Wales, and it has been engineered by you during your period in Government.

I will move on to amendments 3 and 4, which relate to progress on the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 target, introduced on a voluntary basis by the last Conservative Government. In the last Labour Government, a Labour Member of Parliament tabled a backbench motion to introduce statutory targets, with all-party backing, but pressure from 10 Downing Street forced him to withdraw the motion.

However, in Scotland, statutory reporting has been introduced by threatening court action. I urge the Welsh Assembly Government to put its money where its mouth is and to use the powers that it has to implement similar measures here. Let us show that we really mean what we say.

 

Mae Sefydliad Tai Siartredig Cymru’n datgan ei bod yn rhesymol disgwyl bod pawb yn gallu byw mewn cartref diogel, cynnes, fforddiadwy a chyfforddus. Fodd bynnag, gwelir arwyddion cynyddol nad yw’r polisi tai cyfredol yn llwyddo i gyflawni hynny. Mae stoc dai hynaf unrhyw genedl yng ngorllewin Ewrop i’w chael yng Nghymru, gydag 8.5 y cant o stoc dai Cymru sy’n gartrefi’n cael ei chyfrif yn anaddas i fyw ynddynt.

Yn ôl Cyngor y Benthycwyr Morgais mae un o bob dau o’r teuluoedd tlotaf yn byw yn eu cartrefi eu hunain ac mae 72 y cant o eiddo Cymru sydd wedi eu dynodi’n anaddas i fyw ynddynt yn gartrefi i’w perchenogion. Dywed Sefydliad Joseph Rowntree wrthym fod tri o bob pum pensiynwr ar incwm isel yng Nghymru yn berchen ar eu cartref eu hunain.

Yn ôl National Energy Action, ledled y Gogledd, mae 34,000 o bensiynwyr ar incwm isel neu’n hawlio credyd pensiwn ac mae 13.8 y cant o deuluoedd yng Nghymru’n byw mewn tlodi tanwydd. Bob blwyddyn, ceir dros 400 o farwolaethau gaeaf ychwanegol yn y Gogledd ac, yn ystod y gaeaf diwethaf, y ffigur ar gyfer marwolaethau gaeaf ychwanegol oedd yr uchaf a welwyd mewn pum mlynedd, gyda 90 y cant o’r rhain yn digwydd ymhlith pensiynwyr.

Yr oeddwn yn falch o gael cefnogi’r ymgyrch cartrefi cynnes ac o ymweld ag un o fuddiolwyr y cynllun effeithlonrwydd ynni cartref ym Mae Cinmel ychydig wythnosau yn ôl. Fodd bynnag, mae’n amlwg bod llawer iawn o waith i’w wneud eto i dargedu’r rhai sydd yn y perygl mwyaf o dlodi tanwydd.

Er gwaethaf adroddiadau ar ostyngiad yn y nifer sy’n byw mewn tlodi tanwydd ers 1998, fel y clywsom, yn ôl Golwg ar Ynni mae’r gwir ffigur yn debygol o fod yn sylweddol uwch yn dilyn y cynnydd enfawr mewn pris tanwydd yn ystod y ddwy flynedd diwethaf.

Mae ymchwil diweddar a gynhaliwyd gan National Energy Action Cymru a’r Ymgyrch Genedlaethol dros Hawl i Danwydd yn awgrymu y gall tlodi tanwydd fod wedi cynyddu oddeutu 80 y cant rhwng 2003 a 2005, gan effeithio ar hyd at 304,000 o bobl yng Nghymru.

Tlodi tanwydd yw un o brif achosion salwch. Mae cartrefi oer a llaith yn achosi pob math o gyflyrau cylchredol a resbiradol ac mae’n un o ffactorau allweddol arwahanrwydd cymdeithasol. Mae plant sy’n byw mewn tlodi tanwydd yn fwy tebygol o golli ysgol o ganlyniad i salwch a achosir gan oerfel a’i chael yn anodd dod o hyd i rywle i astudio.

Ni cheir enghraifft well o hyn na’r teulu Finnegan yn Sir y Fflint. Dylai pawb sy’n gyfrifol a phawb sydd wedi edrych i’r cyfeiriad arall, wrido gan gywilydd. Dywed Help the Aged yng Nghymru fod 1,800 o bobl hyn wedi marw o ganlyniad i salwch a achosir gan oerfel y gaeaf diwethaf. Dyna’r trydydd gaeaf yn olynol lle gwelwyd cynnydd mewn marwolaethau gaeaf ymhlith pobl dros 65 oed.

Mae’r rhain i gyd yn rhesymau dros gynnig gwelliant 1. Bydd strategaeth genedlaethol yn ddiystyr heb fesurau i gynorthwyo’r bobl sydd mewn angen, a dyna’r sefyllfa’n aml yn achos Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru heddiw. Mae cynigion heb fesurau fel balwns awyr poeth heb dennyn—maent yn codi i’r entrychion, ac yn diflannu am byth.

Dyma Lywodraeth y dystiolaeth a arweinir gan bolisi—y Llywodraeth sy’n rhoi polisi o flaen cynllunio, paratoi a phrisio; ceisio plesio pawb, ond yn cyflawni dim i neb.

Dylai mesurau o’r fath, felly, gydnabod galwad Help the Aged yng Nghymru am ymchwil i’r holl amgylchiadau a all fod yn cyfrannu at farwolaethau gaeaf cynamserol, gan gynnwys ymddygiad yng nghyswllt materion diwylliannol, argaeledd a mynediad at grantiau a chynlluniau gwresogi, iechyd a maeth.

Dim ond wedyn y gallwn ni gyflawni strategaeth sy’n canolbwyntio ar fynd i’r afael â thlodi tanwydd. Fel y dywed Cyngor ar Bopeth Cymru, rhaid hefyd ystyried ffactorau daearyddol i sicrhau bod modd mynd i’r afael â thlodi tanwydd yn yr un ffordd ledled Cymru, a sicrhau nad y bobl sydd y tu allan i grwpiau amlwg ac ardaloedd Cymunedau yn Gyntaf yw’r rhai olaf i dderbyn cymorth.

Yn ôl safon ansawdd tai Cymru rhaid bod modd cynhesu pob annedd yn ddigonol a hynny am gost fforddiadwy. Fodd bynnag, dywed National Energy Action bod angen mwy na rhethreg i gyflawni’r ymrwymiad hwn.

Mae’n gofyn am adnoddau digonol a gorfodi effeithiol. Oherwydd hynny, mae gwelliant 2 yn mynegi pryder ynghylch y cynnydd araf a wneir tuag at gyflawni safon ansawdd tai Cymru erbyn 2012. Fel y dywedodd Cyngor Benthycwyr Morgais Cymru, yn anffodus, hyd yma, mae gwleidyddiaeth a’r broses wedi sefyll yn ffordd realaeth. Y cwestiwn yw: am faint o amser eto y bydd tenantiaid cynghorau Cymru’n gorfod byw â llai na’u haeddiant a’u hangen?

Byddwch yn cofio imi lefaru ar y gyllideb a beirniadu’n hallt yr union ffactor hwn yn bendant ac yn ddiamwys. Mae gennym argyfwng tai yng Nghymru, ac mae wedi’i achosi gennych chi yn ystod eich cyfnod mewn grym.

Yr wyf am symud ymlaen at welliannau 3 a 4, sy’n cyfeirio at y cynnydd i gwrdd â tharged Deddf Cadwraeth Ynni Cartref 1995, a gyflwynwyd ar sail wirfoddol gan y Llywodraeth Geidwadol ddiwethaf. Yn ystod cyfnod y Llywodraeth Lafur ddiwethaf, cyflwynodd Aelod Seneddol Llafur fesur o’r meinciau cefn i gyflwyno targedau statudol, gyda chefnogaeth pob plaid, ond yn dilyn pwysau o gyfeiriad 10 Downing Street fe’i gorfodwyd i dynnu’r cynnig yn ôl. Fodd bynnag, yn yr Alban, bygythiwyd camau cyfreithiol er mwyn cyflwyno trefn adrodd statudol. Erfyniaf ar Lywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru i fod gystal â’i gair a defnyddio’r pwerau sydd ar gael iddi i gyflwyno mesurau tebyg yma. Gadewch inni ddangos ein bod o ddifrif ynglyn â’r hyn yr ydym yn ei ddweud.