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Elderly Persons (Nottingham)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:37 pm on 25th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate 2:37 pm, 25th March 1988

I give the hon. Gentleman the last word on that.

If the television licence fee is reduced for some, it suggests that it should increase for others. That would mean that other people, many of whom may be poor, would pay a much higher fee. The elderly as a group are not all poor, which is why it would be ill-directed to give people a concessionary television licence simply because they are elderly. The hon. Gentleman understands the Government's position on that.

The hon. Gentleman referred to winter warmth. He will know that under the supplementary benefits scheme about £400 million was spent on heating additions. That was intended to provide people with money all the year round, not just in winter, to help them with their heating needs. In the income support system we are directing the premiums towards groups, such as the disabled and the pensioners, and those premiums more than cover the heating additions and some other aspects of the supplementary benefit system. So there continues to be that particular help all year round.

I could not establish the accuracy of what the hon. Gentleman was saying about the draught-proofing programme. Although the supplementary benefit arrangements cease in April, the Government have kept their pledge to continue to give help with draught-proofing From April this will be channelled through the Department of Energy's grants towards community insulation projects by Neighbourhood Energy Action. Government support for community insulation projects is £45 million this year and will rise to between £55 million and £60 million in 1988–89.

The hon. Gentleman will know of our efforts last winter to set up a "Keep Warm Keep Well" campaign, which has been a considerable success, although this has not been a cold winter. Nevertheless, the campaign has involved the co-operation of Age Concern, Help the Aged and several other organisations. The freeline phone service has received 4,000 calls. The Government have produced publicity material for television and radio broadcasts and have extended the programme of press advertising.