To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of the level of winter fuel payments in relation to the cost of energy; and if he will make a statement.
The winter fuel payment is a significant contribution to winter fuel bills which account for around 60 per cent. of the year's total fuel bill. It has risen from £20 to £200 from winter 2000-01 and to £300 for people aged 80 or over from winter 2003-04. These increases have been at a significantly higher rate than inflation. Fuel prices do fluctuate and although fuel prices have risen since 2003, this follows a period of no change between 1997 to 2003. Companies are now starting to announce price reductions in their retail tariffs to domestic customers following recent falls in wholesale gas prices.