Wednesday, 7 September 2016

A disconnected list of old and new targets isn't a climate strategy

Jeremy Corbyn is set to outline his energy strategy today.  It is expected to include

Promoting 200 new publicly owned "local energy companies" by 2025 able to supply towns and cities across the UK.
Encouraging 1,000 new "community energy co-operatives", backed by state funding to pay for connection to the National Grid.
Insulating four million homes to high energy efficiency standards
Phasing out coal-fired power stations by the early 2020s
Restoring the Climate Change Department
Supporting plans to plant 64 million trees in next 10 years

It is good that Jeremy Corbyn appears to be putting together a more coherent approach to the environment. But it is still a hotch-potch with little that is new. Indeed much is old. We need to be much bolder and more innovative.  

Coal-fired generators are due to be phased out by 2025 under this Tory government plans, so not a lot new there. There is very little on how we enhance renewable, although planting trees goes a long way. However, we need to see where, when and how these trees could be planted. 
Home Insulation is way behind targets despite government support. Estimates by the Committee on Climate Change in 2014 suggested that 4.5 million cavity walls remained un-insulated, 10 million easy-to-treat lofts could benefit from additional insulation and 7 million solid walls were still without any insulation.What we need to see is the detail on how to make progress on the targets. Setting targets just isn't working.
Restoring the Climate Change department is good, and necessary, but isn't a great leap forward. It speaks more of how important climate change is than putting forward a clear strategy on dealing with climate change.  It is more politics than substance. 
I give Jeremy marks for effort, but the real problem from a global point of view is that the UK has been 'meeting' its targets for emissions largely by exporting manufacturing abroad to China and India. If we took account of the pollution of our imports then we are doing very badly. Tackling this will need a substantial revival of UK manufacturing with an emphasis on environmentally clean production. I see nothing here on that. However, if this is tackled in the overall economic strategy, then we could really be making new ground.
What I want to see from Labour is not just the targets but how it would be done. The last manifesto was pitifully weak on this. It is time we began to put flesh on the old bones that keep being put forward. Yes, we need more home insulation, but how best can we meet the targets? Yes we need our consumption to be 'clean' but how do we do that when we export our polution to China and India. We need a new manufacturing strategy that promotes clean production in the UK. Labour has time to develop a coherent strategy for the next election, but I don't see it  presented here by Jeremy Corybn. Marks 6/10.

Monday, 5 September 2016

For Labour to abolish university tuition fees it needs to find the funding.

Funding for higher education has become an issue in Labour's leadership election.  Most Labour party members I talk to would like to abolish university tuition fees.

Up to the 2012/13 academic year, higher education institutions in England could charge a maximum annual fee of £3,375. This changed in 2012/13 when the cap was increased to £9,000. The vast majority of universities and courses charge the £9,000 maximum.

Now the cap has been increased to £9,000 there is some evidence that it is deterring potential students from poorer backgrounds, or at the least it is affecting the decisions poorer students make. This was always the concern.  

But, whilst there is evidence that fees may affect decisions, the doomsday predictions of a massive decline in students from poorer backgrounds has not materialised. There are now more young learners entering higher education from lower socio-economic groups than at any time before. This number continued to increase even when the cap was lifted to £9,000. But as UCAS point out 'it is likely that application rates remain a little below what they would have been if higher fees had not been introduced.’

The bottom line is that if we abolish fees altogether then we need to find funding for the universities, and that would need to come from tax revenue.  Labour should at least consider whether fees should still be a component of funding. We can't just have a wish list of state funding without knowing the costs and how they would be met.  We should at least consider whether there is a sweet level of fees that would help raise revenue without being a deterrent to poorer students entering higher education.

The expansion of universities and the numbers of students put a considerable strain on universities. There has been a huge expansion of student numbers. This is good, particularly if it is broadening access and opportunities. But it needs funding. 

Funding from fees now makes up a substantial amount (47%) of university funding. The government has systematically reduced the amount of direct funding for universities in England and Wales. One alternative would be a graduate tax, but it is not clear this would raise sufficient revenue to replace the funding from fees, or if it could be imposed fairly. The universities need funding up front, not at some time in the future when graduates start earning sufficient to pay a premium tax rate.

Those who advocate abolishing fees altogether must come up with alternative funding. We could make it a priority to increase direct funding, but it competes with the need to fund the NHS and social care. I have yet to see any real costed alternative. We need to find one.

My approach would be to systematically reduce fees over a period of years, with a gradual replacement with direct funding. It is sensible to consider  a graduate tax as a temporary measure to find such funding in the future, but the devil would be in the detail. It is also sensible to see some level of fees as part of the mix, but at a much lower cap.

If Jeremy Corbyn promises to abolish fees, then he needs to be honest about its cost, and where he will find the funding. The Universities have no faith in government commitment to increase funding. There is also a great deal of anxiety about the loss of revenue from EU students post Brexit. None of this is easy. Don't believe anyone who claims it is.

Friday, 2 September 2016

His way or none? Why I can't vote for Jeremy

There is an assumption that all would be well with the Labour Party if people hadn't expressed their genuine concern with what they consider the inadequacies of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. If only, it is said, the Parliamentary Labour Party and his Shadow Cabinet had supported him, instead of undermining him, all would have been fine. If they had been quiet and towed the line, then the party would not have been in the mess it is in. So, should they have stayed silent, or speak of their concerns?

There comes a point when the cost of staying silent outweighs the cost of speaking out. This is a judgment. Many call it a coup by the PLP. They paint a picture of a right-wing PLP out of touch with the membership.  This is the narrative of the Corbyn camp.

But Jeremy Corbyn, over the decades he has been in politics, showed the way.  It was Jeremy Corbyn who opposed almost all Labour leaders and rarely held back from speaking out, or voting time and again against the party line. As Secretary of the Camapaign Group, he led the attempt to oust Neil Kinnock in 1988. Sadly, he has continued this approach even when he was elected leader last year.

Opposition comes naturally to Jeremy Corbyn, the responsibilities of leadership are more tricky, and certainly more messy. Thus he continued to oppose rather than seek understanding and compromise for the greater good of party unity and electability. The Labour party 'establishment' were still the enemy. The PLP became the enemy.  The shadow cabinet became the enemy.

Rather than lead, he picked unnecessary fights with his shadow cabinet. This was ill-conceived, and it was doomed to failure - and failure is what it is.  If he wins the current contest, which appears likely, then unless he adopts a different approach it is likely to destroy his party.

This is the problem I have had with his leadership. In so many ways he has been leading Momentum rather than the Labour Party. He is more at home addressing their rallies than he is leading all of Labour. From the start he failed to seek compromise or reach out to the parliamentary party, and he failed to seek a way forward. Trident is an example. It has been Labour's position to support renewal of UK's nuclear deterrent and the party fought the last election on a manifesto pledging to keep a nuclear deterrent.

We cannot expect the Parliamentary Labour Party to abandon that position simply because Jeremy has become leader. Yet this is what he expected.

Corbyn rightly agreed to set up a review, and the then Shadow Defence Secretary, Maria Eagle, was to lead it. But without consultation, Corbyn made Ken Livingstone a joint chair of the review. It was a provocative move.

We hear so much from his supporters that the PLP would not work with him. On the contrary, many were willing to serve in his shadow cabinet. Maria Eagle was one of them. She didn't run to the press shouting about his lack of consultation. But it was symptomatic of the way he would treat his shadow team.

By all accounts, he rarely consulted with his shadow team on an individual basis, and yet he made policy statements. He repeatedly declared war on his own shadow cabinet. He opposed them. His experience in politics is only to adopt positions, not to negotiate with others.

Jeremy's supporters would have us dismiss the entire PLP as 'Blarite' or 'Tories', or worse (go on twitter to find much worse). But we would be foolish to ignore what they have been saying telling us from their experience of his leadership.

Jeremy Corbyn has succeeded in uniting his PLP, but only in as much as he has united them against his leadership. Now, when anyone expresses similar concern they are subjected to the same dismissal of their points. They are not listened to. The reply is always simply 'if you would support him' then it would be different.

Corbyn's supporters won't listen. They are on a mission. It is their way or none. That is what is so damaging about them. That is what is so damaging about Momentum. That is what is wrong with Jeremy's leadership - 'his way or none'. And then there is Momentum, a party that now straddles the Labour party.

Momentum is not just 'Labour supporters'. It embraces also The Socialist Party (former Militant Tendency) and The Socialist Workers Party. Neither of these parties wish Labour to succeed. Yet they bus people to Corbyn rallies.

I have voted for Owen Smith 2016. I believe Jeremy is leading Labour to destruction because of his 'take it or leave it' approach to policy. It is their way or none, and that ignores a substantial number of members who do not support 'his way'.

Labour's greatest achievements have come through compromise. They come though embracing the broader church of the Labour party not narrowing it. The NHS, welfare reform, equality legislation and much more was achieved by being electable, not by saying 'its my principles or none!'. To achieve little is easy enough, to achieve much is difficult. It requires more than a wish list. It requires a coherent programme on the economy and on social policy. It requires priorities and a degree of pragmatism about what can be achieved. But nothing can be achieved without power. Nothing can be achieved without reaching out and addressing voter concerns and becoming electable. We need a Labour government.

A good leader does not hold his party ransom for his principles. That is unprincipled.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The only certainty about Brexit is its uncertainty.

Brexit has become a major issue in the Labour leadership election.  It is one of the defining differences of position between the two candidates. Owen Smith has pledged to fight Brexit, and to campaign for a fresh referendum when the terms of Britain's divorce from the EU are known.  It is a valid position.

Jeremy Corbyn simply rejects the idea of another referendum. The voters have decided, he says. He says it is 'democracy at work'. It is a puzzling position for the leader of the opposition.

Democracy does not end once a vote is taken. A vote is only a part of the process. Just imagine where we would be had everyone accepted the vote to stay in the EEC in 1975.  Referendums should be advisory not definitive.  This does not mean the vote should be ignored. It means that we should decide what it means. Whatever the results of the referendum, government still needs to be held accountable. They need to be challenged on the terms of Brexit.

We do not yet know what Brexit means. Of course it would mean we would leave the EU. We would no longer be a member. But we do not know the nature of our disengagement, or more importantly we do not know the terms of our post-Brexit engagement with the EU - and there is likely to be such an engagement because it is our biggest market.  The nature of that relationship must now be decided.

According to the Institute for Government there are more than four possible scenarios for UK's negotiated exit from the EU. Jeremy Corbyn it seems is happy to leave it to the Tory government to decide which of these we get.Yet it is the duty of the leader of the opposition to hold the government to account.

He says the voters have decided. So my question is, what did the voters decide? Which scenario does Jeremy Corbyn think the British people voted for? He can't say. Nor can the government.

The government do not know what Brexit will look like - or if they do, they are keeping it close to their chests. But we should not give the Tories a blank cheque.

We might, for example, end up having to conform to EU laws but without full membership. Would those who voted out be happy with that? Most probably not, yet it is one possibility. We might end up with Norway's option of paying he EU for access to the EU market. But how much would we agree to pay for this privilege, and would it be acceptable to those who voted out. Many argued we pay too much to Brussels. It was one reason they voted to leave.

Then there is the vexed question of migration. Some kind of free movement of people may be part of the Brexit terms, to protect interests of British citizens in the EU, and to meet the needs of British businesses. Did the British people vote for this? Some might accept it, but so many voted specifically so that the UK could 'take control' of such movement.

Another possible outcome is that we adopt  Canada's position of negotiating bilaterally with the EU.  This has no guarantee of success. Did the British people vote for this? We don't know because this wan't on the ballot sheet.

The only certainty about Brexit is its uncertainty. Yet Jeremy Corbyn appears to want to leave it all to the Tories to decide! Some leader of the opposition!

    Wednesday, 22 June 2016

    My vote to remain in the EU

    The EU referendum campaign is drawing to a close. It hasn’t been a good campaign. Yet the consequences of this vote are enormous – much is at stake.

    We have heard arguments from the sublime to the downright ridiculous. The Tories have turned on each other in a bitter fight to the finish, which says more about the Tory party than it does about the real issues. This has been a fundamental problem because it has distorted the case for Britain remaining an active member of the EU.

    Tory internecine warfare threatens the stability not just of their party, but also of the United Kingdom. Whatever the outcome, wounds opened by the campaign will be difficult to heal. The future of the Tory government is in question with the potential for political chaos if Britain votes to leave.

    So, it has been left to Labour to make the substantive case for remain. Their case is a good one. It is idealistic, pragmatic, economic and social.

    Labour with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership set out to make a distinctive case – to be inside the EU as an active member campaigning for reform. Corbyn's assessment of his position on the EU with a score of 7/10 probably represents the view of the majority in the Labour party, and the position of many voters. He says, honestly, that he 'doesn't love the EU' but thinks we can work for reform better by being in than out of the union. It would be foolish to consider the EU as perfect, but its weaknesses are not good enough reason to leave. Labour's position is sensible and reasoned. So tomorrow, polling day, I will be voting for Britain to remain a member of the EU.

    I respect the arguments of those who wish to leave the EU. There are good arguments for leaving. But there are equally valid reasons to stay. I will be voting remain because I believe we are better able to work with our partners in Europe on climate change, on rights in the workplace, on consumer protection and social justice. These issues are transnational and need transnational collaboration.

    I also believe on balance the economic argument for remain is sound. Our economy has benefited by our membership, with more sustainable growth since we joined. It has attracted massive inward investment to the UK.

    A regulated single market requires a body to ensure those regulations are applied fairly and consistently and requires a degree of pooling of sovereignty. We need to work together to develop the poorest areas and those in decline, creating jobs and opportunity. We can do this better together with fair regional funding. We all benefit by this funding because it strengthens the market in which we sell our goods.

    The mantra of the Leave campaign has been to 'take back control'. Sovereignty is a key issue, but I didn't see any lack of sovereignty when the British parliament sent our troops to Iraq. Nor was there a lack of sovereignty when our government imposed austerity measures and cut benefits to the poorest and the disabled. There is no lack of sovereignty as parliament decides to renew Trident.

    So what then do they mean by take back control. They are not talking about real sovereignty. They are talking about 'our borders' and immigration. It is an unconvincing argument. It is the economy and conflict that drives migration, and the demands of the UK economy will continue to drive migrant numbers, whether we are in or out of the EU. It is notable that the leave campaign were unable to say that numbers would fall if we leave!

    The leave campaign have an attractive slogan - take back control. On the substantive issues that affect us, we haven't lost control. Our problems don't stem from the EU. Our NHS and social care are in crises, not because of our EU membership, but because of actions taken by our government. It is disingenuous for leave to suggest otherwise.

    I am an internationalist because I believe social justice should be international. Too much of our economic well-being and freedom is predicated on the oppression and exploitation of people in other parts of the world. We don't address that by leaving the EU.

    Some on the left see the EU as a political tool of global capitalism, but I see the potential for challenging that system, creating and protecting workers rights and freedoms, working with our socialist partners in Europe. We won’t always win, and progress may be slow, but I cannot see how we can do it alone, with our economy at the mercy of a resurgent neoliberalism.

    My father’s generation saw the carnage that the toxic mix of capitalism and imperialism brought to the peoples of Europe. Instead of seeing the promised homes fit for heroes, he saw instead the consequences of capitalist failure and greed. We also saw the results of that greed and failure in the recent banking crises, and our problems owe more to that than to the machinations of Brussel's eurocrats.

    Perhaps the EU isn't essential for peace, but in my lifetime we have seen Europe at peace with itself. It has been part of the settlement that has allowed Europe to change. We have seen the Berlin wall fall, and a united Germany at peace with its neighbours. The EU is part of the process of post war economic, social and political development on which that peace is built.

    Indeed, this was heralded by Winston Churchill in 1946 when he called for a european structure for peace. 

    “There is a remedy which ... would in a few years make all Europe ... free and ... happy.
    It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”

    Europe is a better place that it was. We have seen the end of fascist tyranny in Spain, and democracy flourish. We have seen the end of dictatorships in Greece and Portugal. We have seen Europe working together – working together in regional development, in research and in health – and working together to create social justice and trade union rights enshrined in law.

    Human rights transcend national boundaries and we need international bodies to foster and protect them. That isn't a loss of sovereignty. It is giving power to people.

    The EU isn’t perfect. But we have seen Europe flourish as a family of democratic nations.

    The truth is we have created a better Europe - not a perfect one, but a better one. It is a Europe that protects democracy and human rights; a Europe that promotes consumer rights; a Europe that protects rights in the workplace; a Europe that promotes social justice. I do not believe we can better stand against global capitalism outside the EU.

    So is reform inside the EU possible. The answer is clear. In every nation, in every corner of the Continent, the appetite for fundamental change is growing. That desire for change should be directed toward a fundamental transformation in the governance of Europe, and we should be at the forefront of that push for change.

    So let’s remind ourselves why the right-wing brixiteers don’t like the EU. They detest the fact that the EU’s single market (the world’s largest market) is a market with rules to protect consumers, workers and the environment and to regulate multinational companies. It is this regulation they call ‘red-tape’, and they would sweep it away.

    Leaving the EU is a bit like jumping off a seaworthy boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and extolling the virtues of being 'free' to swim to shore. We may drown, but at least we are ‘free’!

    Global Capital is what it says – it is global. It requires global regulation. We don’t strengthen our fight against it by leaving the EU – we weaken it.

    There is a tendency to think that whether we remain in the EU can be the product of some form of calculation – the amount we receive from the EU vs. the amount we pay in. But such a calculation is not possible unless you can put value on that which is incalculable. 

    We cannot measure the benefit to the UK by a simple spreadsheet. How do we give monetary value the social provisions of the EU? It is argued that if we left the EU we could simply replace the social legislation with our own. But think, how long that would take, and think of the political struggle to achieve it. Would the Tories willingly replace every level of social legislation? No. Of course not! It is precisely the social legislation protecting workers rights that they want rid of.

    It took a Labour government to sign up to the social provisions opposed bitterly by the Tories. 

    So, the argument isn’t simply the consumer market of some 500 million providing jobs and inward investment in UK businesses, or the extended consequences of that for the supply chain, for jobs and the broader economy.

    For me it isn’t simply the massive €1 bn UK science receives through the EU. It isn’t the support for our small and medium sized businesses and regional development, or the support for small farmers. 

    Nor is it that the EU has accounted for 47% of the UK’s stock of inward investment worth over $1.2 trillion. Or that Access to the EU Single Market has also helped attract investment into the UK from outside the EU. 

    It isn’t what we get, or what we can get from our membership – it is what we can achieve by working with our European partners. 

    The UK’s net contribution to the EU budget is around €7.3bn, or 0.4% of GDP. As a comparison that’s around a quarter of what the UK spends on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and less than an eighth of the UK’s defence spend. The £116 per person net contribution is less than that from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands. Yet Vote Leave continue to peddle the misleading figure of the cost, and pledge to spend it instead to solve almost every problem from housing to the NHS! It is pie in the sky. It is disingenuous. 

    Our universities generate £73 billon a year for the British economy! That is a massive figure, and demonstrates the value of our universities. But we depend heavily on the EU to achieve this in two ways: 1) EU students studying here and 2) EU research funding in science and technology, the fruits of which will translate into innovative economic benefit. 

    125,000 EU students generate £3.7 billion a year, supporting directly 34,000 jobs.

    The universities also receive £725 million per year in grants form the EU. My own college, University College London receives £34.5 million per year in research grant income from the EU. All this contributes to the UK economy and innovation.

    If you don't think this is at risk if we left the EU, then consider these questions. Would the government, or any political party, guarantee to replace the EU grants for research? If so, where would the money come from?

    Would they be prepared to increase taxation to do that? I doubt it. Our universities lead the world and we hit way above our weight in the international league tables. Much of this is helped by our membership of the EU and our collaborations with other EU bodies.

    There may well be ‘too much’ red tape. But it is better inside determining what those regulations are, than outside simply having to conform to them but without any influence on what they are.

    The case for our membership of the EU is threefold.

    It is Idealistic: the EU has helped create and maintain an area of peace and stability in a continent that was ravaged by war for centuries. We underestimate that achievement at our peril. 

    It is pragmatic: our countries are highly interdependent, and we need to find common solutions to common problems in many fields. The EU is the structure we’ve built together for this purpose. Be it managing our common market, cooperating in fighting terrorism and criminals, or working together on the environment, we can achieve more together than apart. 

    It is also right from our own self interest: EU membership is vital for British jobs. It is the main destination for British exports. We need to have full access without tariffs and a seat at the table to defend our interests where the common rules for the common market are made.

    Our economy has benefited from the EU membership. Gross domestic product per person has grown faster than Italy, Germany and France in the 42 years since we joined the EU. By 2013, Britain became more prosperous than the average of the three other large European economies for the first time since 1965. Before we joined we were regarded as the 'sick man of Europe' with sluggish growth and sterling crises.

    Patrick Minford of Cardiff University, a leading Brexit economist, suggests a boost to GDP growth by 2020 on the basis of Britain dismantling all tariffs unilaterally post-Brexit. Under Minford’s assumptions this is great boon to some sectors of the economy which would benefit from cheaper imports. However, even supposing he is right, he acknowledges it comes with a massive cost as “It seems likely we would mostly eliminate manufacturing, leaving mainly industries such as design, marketing and hi-tech”. In other words it would devastate our manufacturing base.

    Economic success if we left the EU would depend on our ability to reach good trade deals. The Treasury Select Committee – comprised of prominent Brexiteers and Remain campaigners – has agreed a unanimous report in which it concluded that "reaching high-quality trade agreements with countries like China, India and the United States, while securing access to the agreements to which the UK is party by virtue of its EU membership, would be a considerable diplomatic challenge; it would take time, resources and the goodwill of other governments." There are very few certainties. Be wary of those who say leaving the EU will be easy.

    So there it is. These are my reasons for voting remain.

    Saturday, 13 February 2016

    Age UK call for a meeting

    As the 'media storm' subsides we move into the second week of our campaign for compensation for misled E.ON Age UK tariff customers. The message is clear from so many of the comments left by those supporting the petition. They all express outrage at both Age UK and E.ON.

    Many of you would have heard the response of Age UK in the media. It is apparently all a storm in a teacup whipped up by the media and in particular The Sun.

    Age UK and E.ON have responded to the media storm by 'suspending' their commercial association, but they continue to defend their position. They would have us believe this move has nothing to do with the campaign. Meanwhile they continue to peddle misinformation.

    The boss of Age UK says that they received 'typically' just £10 from each customer signing up to the Age UK tariff.

    A simple calculation shows this is not true. The accounts for the year 2014/15 for UK Enterprise Ltd show they received £6.3 million from E.ON for signing up 152,000 customers. It is simple arithmetic.

    The average received was £41 per customer. This means that on average each customer was giving almost £10 a month to Age UK.

    The petition will now be the focus of continued press and media interest. The people speak.

    I have been asked whether I worry about the damage this is doing to Age UK and the vital work they do. The answer is yes, of course. But it is not we who have done the damage. It is Age UK. We cannot turn a blind eye to a wrong simply because it is a charity. That would be a cover up, and there are far too many of those.

    Age UK says they have done nothing wrong. Legally I am sure that is so. I am also sure that they had all good intentions - but the ends do not always justify the means. To simply justify misleading 'customers' by the good work of the charity is not an ethical position. Age UK had a duty of care to those who turned to them for help. They did so believing they would look out for their interests.

    The Age UK tariff was not the best available deal for them. They could have been referred to other energy suppliers who would have given a better one. E.ON do acknowledge that the Age UK tariff was not the cheapest of their deals on offer at the time.

    Age UK now say that price isn't always what counts and that service and quality of after care matters. Indeed it does. But there is scant evidence to show Age UK customers got better service or aftercare than they would have otherwise been given. On the contrary, E.ON repeatedly scores low in customer satisfaction ratings by  Which? the consumer group. They are not the worst of the big six, but they are not the best deal on offer when it comes to customer care.

    The Age UK Enterprise boss, Ian Foy, has said he would like a meeting with me to discuss 'the complaint'. This is a good move and I will respond to it. Age UK needs to move forward positively from this, but it can only do so if it understands the problem. At the moment it seems they do not.  He says

    "We do not believe we have misled anyone who bought our products, and we warmly encourage Ray Noble to get in touch with us so that we can talk this over with him."

    I do welcome this move and will be in touch with him to arrange such a meeting.

    This coming week I will be posting an open letter to the boss of E.ON UK asking for a meeting to discuss their response.

    Meanwhile please support the petition.

    Sunday, 7 February 2016

    Come.ON E.ON now do the right thing

    A victory of sorts, or at least a skirmish won. With pressure mounting as a result of The Sun investigation and growing public outrage, E.ON UK has announced that it will withdraw its misleading Age UK energy tariff and replace it with a better deal for older people. We will see the replacement this week. This is good news. But it isn't sufficient.

    E.ON's move is an acknowledgement of the misleading nature of the Age UK tariff.  They are bowing to pressure, and they know it is indefensible.  Defending the indefensible is always a bad place to be. We need to maintain pressure for them to refund those pensioners who had a bad deal.

    Age UK initially denied it was a bad deal, saying that fuel prices can go up or down, and that they advise people to search around for the best deals. But this is too simple.  it is easy enough to say consumers should 'shop around', but if that was the best thing for Age UK clients to do, then why not simply give them the best advice on how to do it.  Why introduce a tariff from which Age UK would benefit financially? It compromised their integrity and misled older people they were supposed to represent.

    Many older people are not in a good position to search for the best deals. Many are not online. A survey by the Oxford Internet Institute found that the numbers of older people online has remained relatively static, with between 25% and 35% using the internet. But even if they have access to the internet,  it isn't easy to find the best deals. 

    Tariffs are complicated. This is why they would have welcomed Age UK looking after their interests. They trusted that Age UK would monitor the rates and be actively engaged on their behalf. The truth is their faith was misplaced.

    Age UK involvement had a clear objective, and that was to raise money for Age UK. At best there were conflicting objectives - the objective of protecting the interests of older people and that of raising money for the charity were in conflict. It was an ethically compromised scheme.

    Older people who signed up to the Age UK tariff trusted that there would have been a duty of care for Age UK to look after their interests. This is why many were attracted to it.  When I first signed up to the tariff I received a reassuring welcome package from Age UK with tips on how to stay warm.

    They now find that our trust was misplaced, and we have effectively been overcharged. This is why E.ON should now put this right by arranging to refund those Age UK E.On customers who are out of pocket from buying into the Age UK brand.

    Latest figures show there are 1.14 million older people in England living in fuel poverty there are some 31,000 ‘excess winter deaths’ in England and Wales last winter.

    Fuel poverty kills.  This is why it is incumbent on energy companies to ensure older people are able to heat their homes.  This is a social responsibility.  It goes beyond profit and loss.  Each older person paying over the odds for their energy is someone baring the burden of cheaper tariffs for others. That is unfair. 

    Age UK warn that there has been little progress on tackling fuel poverty.  That is the reality. This is more reason why Age UK should not compromise its own position by selling a given tariff and receiving commission from it.  It must work with the energy companies to produce economic justice for older people.  

    The energy companies should also have a social obligation to ensure older people are on the best deals.  Keeping sufficiently and safely warm is not a luxury. It is a necessity.  It shouldn't be decided by a tariff lottery. We can do better than that. We must stop this retail energy casino. It is gambling with the lives of vulnerable people. 

    E.ON should now do the decent thing and make a refund. Please sign the petition and share it with others.