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Concerns that energy price hikes will push many families further into poverty

23 April, 2008

Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Paul Maskey, who is the deputy Chairperson of the Assembly Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, has said that inflation busting energy price increases will push greater numbers of people further into poverty.

Commenting on speculation that Phoenix Gas may introduce a 30% increase in Gas prices, Mr Maskey said:

"Oil prices have increased by almost 70% in the last year and now there is speculation that huge gas price and electricity increases are on the way.

"These massive increases in energy prices will push many vulnerable households further into poverty.

"It is essential that we look at what measures can be taken to protect the most vulnerable in our society, to make sure that pensioners, people suffering from long-term illnesses and families with young children are not forced to make decisions between heating and electricity and putting food on the table.

"These are people who are already at risk from poverty, particularly fuel poverty.

"While everyone can see that rising global energy costs are impacting on local energy companies, with the price of a barrel of oil hitting $118, there has to be a strategy to tackle fuel poverty.

"Political instability, particularly in the middle east, the war in Iraq and the credit crunch are all undoubtedly having a very serious knock on effect on oil prices." ENDS

Note to Editors

The Energy Regulator Iain Osborne will appear before the Assembly Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, tomorrow Thursday 24th April. The Committee meets at 10.30am.

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