NEWCASTLE LABOUR MPs ARE ONLY TWO WHO VOTE AGAINST ENDING FUEL POVERTY

March 23, 2009 5:24 PM

A senior Liberal Democrat has denounced as "disgraceful" the failure of the Government to support a Lib Dem-proposed Bill to end fuel poverty.

Councillor Greg Stone, Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle East, said it was "beyond belief" that Jim Cousins and Nick Brown voted against the Bill, which was being proposed by Lib Dem MP David Heath.

The Bill proposed to take steps to require energy companies to end pre-pay meters and introduce lower tariffs for fuel costs for pensioners and families on low incomes, as well as supporting a massive programme to make homes more energy efficient - saving residents money and protecting the environment.

The Fuel Poverty Bill had attracted support from MPs of all parties and was enthusiastically backed by leading charities including Age Concern, Friends of the Earth and the Child Poverty Action Group.

However, under parliamentary rules more than 100 MPs needed to support it when it was debated on Friday in the House of Commons.

The vote was carried by 89 votes to 2, but this was not enough to allow the bill to proceed.

Disgracefully, the only two MPs to vote against the bill were Newcastle Central Labour MP Jim Cousins and Newcastle East Labour MP Nick Brown.

Both have previously claimed to be supporters of efforts to tackle fuel poverty.

Councillor Greg Stone, Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle East, said: "It is simply beyond belief that the only two MPs who had the gall to vote against this worthy and well-supported scheme were both Newcastle Labour MPs.

"Yet again, Nick Brown has put the interests of his best pal Gordon Brown ahead of the interests of thousands of his constituents who struggle with rapidly rising fuel bills.

"It is hugely disappointing that the Labour Government has failed to back this proposal, but it is sickening that Newcastle Labour Mps were the only ones to vote against it.

"We will be reminding voters of their hypocrisy from here until the election and reminding people that they have put party interest ahead of the interest of some of their most disadvantaged constituents."

Newcastle North MP Doug Henderson did not take part in the debate or vote.