Fuel Poverty at Parliamentary Evidence Week: where evidence-makers meet policy-makers

Professor Lucie Middlemiss and Dr Neil Simcock with Labour MP for Leeds North West Alex Sobel and his assistant

Last week was a change in routine for us as we left our fieldwork and teaching duties aside to bring research evidence on fuel poverty to the Houses of Parliament. We were attending Parliament as part of Parliamentary Evidence Week, a yearly event run by Sense About Science that brings together policy-makers and evidence-makers – MPs, members of the House of Lords, and academics – to discuss how and what evidence is used in policies for critical social and economic issues.

This was our first real outing as the Fuel Poverty Evidence project. This project aims to bring academic research evidence into policy-making: born of our conviction that a lot of UK evidence in this field is underused. This week was an exciting opportunity to bring our passion for fuel poverty, and the people affected by it, to politicians in a position to shape policy or to hold it to account.  Given the current costs of energy, and in the face of the coming winter, our evidence has a hugely important role to play in helping politicians. 

Conducting a quick fire briefing with Labour MP for Blaydon Liz Twist

We spent all day on Wednesday in personal meetings with 10 politicians plus other key researchers and journalists. Our conversations were wide ranging – from the climate crisis, constituency casework on fuel poverty, and the recent tragic and shameful death of a toddler due to exposure to mould. We talked about the urgent need for solutions on this front, including:  

In addition to these constructive and critical discussions, we also learnt a lot from this Evidence Week experience on how to approach and engage with policy-makers. In the preceding weeks we were strategic about contacting politicians, looking for those with an interest in energy, climate change, poverty, and housing. We found that a great way to find engaged politicians is through the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG). APPGs bring together politicians from across all parties to hold the government to account on specific issues. The APPG on Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency and the APPG on Energy Costs were obvious targets, and those with interests in housing and planning, climate change, older people, and health.

Deep in conversation with SNP MP Alex Brown

The next step in our learning is how to get traction with policy makers who are not already engaged in the fuel poverty debate. Our Evidence Week may have been even more fruitful if we had been able to engage with more MPs from the current government and from a wider geographical spread.  

Overall, the experience was a huge learning curve for us. We leave it feeling more confident about how to approach and interact with MPs about our research and evidence, and are heartened by the level of interest by some in the political community for using research evidence to inform solutions to the current fuel poverty emergency. We are still available for new discussions, plus we will be following up with the MPs we spoke to in the coming week, providing further key evidence and building upon these fledgling relationships.

With Labour MP Tony Lloyd

The latest briefing from the Fuel Poverty Evidence team can be found here.