The word I most remember from my childhood is the word “reasonable”. Applied to everything from the weather to my behaviour, this was my father’s favourite and most frequently used word.
It is one of the two words – along with practical – that now matter to the five million or so people now in fuel poverty. I met Andy Atkins (days into his new job as Executive Director at Friends of the Earth) and Mervyn Kohler (Help the Aged) outside the High Court as they launched their judicial review of the government’s fuel poverty strategy earlier this week (along with Mary – in the photo). Their legal challenge rests on the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000. Section 2 (1) of the Act creates a duty on the government to prepare and publish a fuel poverty strategy. That strategy was first published in Nov 2001. Two target dates were set – 2016 to end fuel poverty and 2010 to end fuel poverty in vulnerable households. But both have the proviso where ‘reasonably practicable’ .
Those two words are at the centre of the case.
The government has contested that it is not reasonably practicable to do anything beyond what it has already done given government spending priorities and departmental budgets. Andy and Mervyn say that this is the wrong way round. There is a duty to end fuel poverty and funding should be made available to allow that to happen.