Meet the Aga Louts: We pay for MPs' pricey carbon-creators

Politicians want us to cut fossil-fuel consumption. May we suggest a good place to start? In their own homes, where oil-guzzling cookers dominate their upmarket kitchens. Brian Brady reports

Sunday 13 December 2009 01:00
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It is the latest battlefield in the ongoing row over MPs' expenses. After the moat, the duck-house, the flipping and the plasma televisions, the many Agas maintained by politicians at public expense are in the firing line.

Apart from the series of claims for servicing the traditional cookers, taxpayers have been footing the bill for thousands of pounds worth of oil to keep them going over the past few years.

And, with saving the Earth high on the political agenda due to the Copenhagen summit, environmentalists have condemned the beloved fixtures that lurk in many a middle-class kitchen for the damage they can do to the environment.

At least 15 MPs, including some of the most senior figures in the Conservative and Labour parties, have claimed for expenses in relation to their Agas in recent years. But it is the oil burned by the older models that has infuriated environmentalists, who claim it is one of the hidden costs of the expenses scandal.

Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Wales, claimed for an Aga service last year and was also reimbursed for more than £3,500-worth of "burning oil" delivered to his constituency home. The Conservative leader, David Cameron, claims more than £1,000 a year for heating oil to keep his Aga functioning, in addition to utility bills of almost £200 a month. George Osborne's bill for fuel oil came to almost £1,500 last year. The Aga-owning Tory grandee Michael Ancram spends up to £1,000 a quarter on burning oil for his country home.

A number of other MPs have explained their spending on the fuel, which costs up to 40p a litre, by pointing out that their Agas were already installed when they moved into their homes. Some of them live in older houses in more remote areas, where burning oil is a traditional fuel.

But earlier this year the environmental campaigner George Monbiot complained that the cookers, which also provide hot water and heating, are environmentally unfriendly "monsters". He said they generate much higher levels of carbon dioxide than other appliances and waste energy because they are always running.

His concerns were echoed by some green organisations, including Britain's Energy Saving Trust, which said Agas are "inherently wasteful" because they produce heat constantly, warming a house "even when not required, specifically when there is no one in".

Andy Kerr, head of the Scottish Alliance for Geosciences, Environment and Society, said: "The problem with Agas is that they are cookers with enough heat output to heat a kitchen, but most of them are 'on' all the time.

"Even in slumber mode, an Aga is producing as much heat for heating the kitchen as a normal central heating radiator. Unless Aga owners have a back boiler to make use of the heat, most will also have a central heating system in their house, meaning a doubling up of heating systems."

A Green Party spokesman told The Independent on Sunday that MPs should reconsider the amount of energy they were using.

He added: "Anyone who is spending £1,000 a month on domestic fossil fuel, no matter what they are using it for, should probably be looking at ways of saving energy."

William McGrath, the chief executive of Aga, said the company had worked hard to produce more environmentally friendly versions of the traditional oven. "We also now offer owners the opportunity to fit new programmable burners to existing gas, electric and oil models," he said. "The Aga is much loved for great food and for providing the heart to the home, and has multifunctional uses as a heater, tumble dryer, toaster, etc."

The Aga company's own figures state that a four-person household using an unprogrammed Aga produces around 7.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. A modern, programmable gas Aga produces between 3.5 and 4.5 tonnes.

MPs who claimed AGA related expenses

MICHAEL ANCRAM (Conservative, Devizes)

Claimed £6,500 in 2008-9

GEORGE OSBORNE (Conservative, Tatton)

Claimed £1,500

TONY BLAIR (Labour, Sedgefield)

Claimed £1,050 in 2002-3

JOHN MAPLES (Con, Stratford-upon-Avon)

Claimed £2,936

ANTHONY STEEN (Conservative, Totnes)

Claimed £1,100

PETER VIGGERS (Conservative, Gosport)

Claimed £125

OLIVER LETWIN (Conservative, West Dorset)

Claimed £155 a year to 2008

QUENTIN DAVIES (Lab, Grantham & Stamford)

Claimed £115

DAVID CAMERON (Conservative, Witney)

Claimed £1,235 for two years

PETER HAIN (Labour, Neath)

Claimed £3,500

DOUGLAS HOGG (Con, Sleaford & North Hykeham)

Claimed £200 a year

JAMES ARBUTHNOT (Con, Hampshire North East)

Claimed £341

HILARY ARMSTRONG (Labour, North West Durham)

Claimed £95.54 in 2007

HUGO SWIRE (Conservative, East Devon)

Claimed £138

PETER LUFF (Con, Mid Worcestershire)

Claimed £53.71

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