Pensioners and Winter Fuel Payments

Part of Opposition Day — [12th Allotted Day – Second Part (Half Day)] – in the House of Commons at 6:23 pm on 22nd November 2011.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price Conservative, Thurrock 6:23 pm, 22nd November 2011

There are a number of schemes that are designed to provide such support, and I suspect that there are alternative schemes for people who claim housing benefit. Also, who is responsible for meeting the cost of such work depends on the nature of the landlord.

I should like to highlight some of the things that the Government have done to alleviate fuel poverty for pensioners. We have heard reference to the warm home discount, which will enable pensioners to have a mandatory rebate on their electricity bills. The Government have also permanently increased the cold weather payments, and it is very important to make that point when we consider where support is being directed. We can have the universal benefit of the winter fuel payments, and to some extent I am attracted to that, because we have poor levels of pension credit take-up. However, it is important that we strike a balance, because we can all point out people who are entitled to that benefit and perhaps do not need it. Focusing more support on cold weather payments, which go to pensioners who claim means-tested benefit, is entirely appropriate.

The motion concentrates on the cut in the winter fuel payments. The Minister said that the level that was previously budgeted for was only a temporary increase. Members have said that we could have decided to stick with that increase, and Cathy Jamieson had a nice try when she said, “Look, this is a cut, it’s up to you what to do.” However, as I said, it is important to see the matter in the round and see what we have done to focus additional support on those who need it most, through cold weather payments.

Members have mentioned the issue of housing stock, and I encourage the Government to consider what more can be done to highlight the schemes that exist and encourage more people to take up support to improve the quality of housing. Ultimately, we are not going to tackle the issues of fuel poverty and ever-increasing bills unless we really focus on delivering energy efficiency in all our homes. We need to do that not just for pensioners but for low-income households in general.