Pensioners and Winter Fuel Payments

Part of Opposition Day — [12th Allotted Day – Second Part (Half Day)] – in the House of Commons at 7:28 pm on 22nd November 2011.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 7:28 pm, 22nd November 2011

I think the House will draw its own conclusions from the fact that the hon. Lady again failed to take the opportunity to make clear what the Labour party’s policy is on this issue. The coalition Government have made permanent the increase in the cold weather payment from £8.50 to £25. Again, hon. Members on both sides of the House will be pleased to hear that that money is going to the most vulnerable of our constituents. Some 2.7 million pensioner households receiving pension credit also receive the cold weather payment.

The coalition Government are taking real steps to protect pensioners, which is why one of our first actions was to restore the earnings link with the basic state pension. We also gave a triple guarantee that pensions will be increased by the highest of growth in average earnings, price increases or 2.5%. Pension credit is also available for those who have low incomes, and we have continued key support for older people such as free NHS prescriptions, travel concessions and free television licences. For the longer term, we will need to help prevent people from retiring into poverty. Again, our actions are speaking louder than mere words, through the automatic enrolment in workplace pensions.

Hon. Members have made a strong case as to why fuel poverty is a real issue for many vulnerable people, including pensioners living in Northern Ireland. The differences in Northern Ireland are clear, and hon. Members have made that point in this debate. That is why Northern Ireland receives not only the support from pension credits, winter fuel payments and cold weather payments, which are provided for the rest of the UK, but a block grant of some £10.4 billion in funding for the Executive to address the particular priorities of Democratic Unionist party Members and other Northern Ireland Members. That money goes along with some £6 billion to pay for the cost of social security and pensions. We should not forget that Northern Ireland receives almost 25% more in spend per head of population than England, in recognition of the real issues that individuals living in Northern Ireland face.