March 16, 2009 4:18 PM

Newcastle Liberal Democrats are urging local MPs to be in Parliament to give their support to a new Private Members Bill that will help cut energy bills for the poorest families and could help save the lives of up to 20,000 pensioners a year.

The Bill also calls for a massive programme to make homes more energy efficient - saving residents money and protecting the environment.

The Fuel Poverty Bill being proposed by Liberal Democrat MP David Heath is being enthusiastically backed by leading charities including Age Concern, Friends of the Earth and the Child Poverty Action Group.

It would deliver a massive home insulation programme which would halve the energy needed to heat the average home, and would end the scandal of those who use pre-pay meters - generally the least well-off - paying higher rates for their gas and electricity.

Ron Beadle, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle North, said: "Energy bills have nearly doubled in recent years and many local families and pensioners are struggling to heat their homes. 20,000 pensioners are dying a year as a result of fuel poverty.

"It is horrific that in this day and age so many people are having to make the difficult choice between heating and eating."

Councillor Greg Stone, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle East, said: "The energy efficiency proposals in the bill will also help save residents money and cut the emissions that cause climate change.

"We have written to the city's three Labour MPs - Jim Cousins, Nick Brown, and Doug Henderson - urging them to be there on the 20th March.

"We urge Labour and Conservative MPs to do their duty by joining this campaign and voting for this Bill.

"We simply cannot let a situation continue where people are dying because they cannot afford to heat their homes."

Councillor Gareth Kane, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle Central, added: "Newcastle City Council has been leading the way in insulating people's homes with the Newcastle Warm Zone scheme.

"But we want to do more. This Bill will allow us to do even more to reduce fuel poverty in Newcastle."

The Bill is scheduled for second reading debate in the House of Commons on Friday March 20th - but could fall if not enough Members of Parliament turn up to support it. Many MPs return to their constituencies on Fridays, but the Lib Dems are expressing the hope that the city's three Labour MPs will stay in Westminster to support the Bill.