Remembering Baroness Maddock

On behalf of the staff of NEA and my fellow trustees, it is with great sadness that I pay tribute to NEA’s Vice President, Baroness Maddock of Christchurch who sadly lost her battle with cancer this weekend.

As former Director of Communications and External Relations at NEA, I had the pleasure to work with Diana for over 25 years. When reflecting on the contribution she made to tackling fuel poverty, I realise that she understood very early on, the impacts that cold homes have on the environment and the health of those living in poor housing, and the multiple benefits that investing in energy efficiency can bring.

As the MP for Christchurch, Diana was one of the first parliamentary members of the All-Party Warm Homes Group which was established in 1995. Her commitment led her to introduce a Private Members Bill which resulted in the Home Energy Conservation Act becoming law in 1995. The Act requires local authorities to produce reports on their plans to support the delivery of energy efficiency to improve domestic properties in their areas. As a former councillor with several local authorities prior to becoming an MP, Diana was well aware that having a duty to do something, is a necessary precursor to taking action for many local authorities.

Diana’s broad policy understanding of energy and the environment, housing and planning and social justice issues meant she could inform many debates making the links that energy efficiency is key to tackling fuel poverty, climate change and improved health and well- being. She regularly raised her frustrations that “successive governments have failed to get to grips with an issue which is a disgrace in a country which is one of the richest in the world”.

Diana was also a great advocate in other areas such as gas safety. She was an officer of the All-Party Carbon Monoxide Group, her interest was evidently inspired by the death of one of her constituents when she was an MP. The links between fuel poverty and gas safety are well evidenced by NEA. We know that vulnerable energy consumers are more likely to undertake unsafe practices in a desperate attempt to keep warm.

When Diana stood down as an MP she joined the House of Lords and continued her support for NEA as a vice-president of the charity. As well as contributing to debates at a policy level she was hugely supportive of NEA; hosting events and being an inspirational ambassador for us. She continued to support the All-Party Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency Group (FPEEG) following the change of name from the Warm Homes Group, to make the links between fuel poverty and energy efficiency more evident.

Diana had a very holistic approach to tackling social justice, she took an active interest in the Smart Meters Bill to ensure that all consumers can realise the benefits of the roll-out.

As well as working with NEA and other agencies at a national level, Diana was hugely supportive of local agencies working at a community level to tackle fuel poverty. For many years she awarded NEA’s Heat Heroes at events in Parliament and visited many agencies in her homeland, Northumberland, to see at first hand the work they were doing and raise awareness of the value of local action.

We would like to send sincere condolences to Diana’s husband Alan Beith, himself a long standing supporter of NEA. Diana was so positive throughout her brave battle. She continued to actively support the fight to end fuel poverty until very recently.

Maria Wardrobe

Former Director of Communications and External Relations and Trustee of NEA.

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