To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the proportion of the average winter fuel bill for pensioner households represented by the (a) £100 reduction and (b) £50 reduction in winter fuel payments proposed over winter 2011-12; and what assessment he has made of the effects on fuel poverty of the proposed removal of the enhanced rate of the winter fuel payment in 2011-12 for pensioners under (i) 80 and (ii) over 80 years; and if he will make a statement.
In winter 2011-12, winter fuel payments will be paid exactly as budgeted for by the previous Government. The standard rates of winter fuel payments will be £200 for households with someone who has reached women's state pension age and is under 80 and £300 for households with someone aged 80 or over.
(a) For households where there is someone aged 80 or over, the winter fuel payment is £100 less in 2011-12 compared to 2010-11. For this group it is estimated that £100 represents around 15% of the average winter fuel bill.
(b) For households where there is someone who has reached women's state pension age and is under 80, the winter fuel payment is £50 less in 2011-12 compared to 2010-11. For this group it is estimated that £50 represents around 7% of the average winter fuel bill.
Information on the fuel poverty impact for (i) pensioners under 80 and (ii) pensioners over 80 years is not available separately. For both groups combined the impact of the removal of the temporary increase in winter fuel payments is estimated at 25,000 more households in fuel poverty in England.
Additional support is available through cold weather payments for regions that suffer particularly cold weather and we have made permanent the increase in these payments from £8.50 to £25 a week from 2011-12 onwards. Subject to parliamentary approval, from winter 2011-12 some of the poorest pensioners would get direct assistance with their energy costs through a rebate off their electricity bills under the warm home discount scheme. Rebates would be at least £120.
1. Family Spending 2010 (Living Costs and Food Survey 2009) is used to determine household expenditure on fuel by age. This information uses weekly amounts to create an average annual fuel bill. Winter fuel bills are estimated as being between 60% and 70% of the annual bill based on DECC information (in table 2 for gas and table 3 for electricity) of:
2. The fuel and light inflation rate, published by the ONS, is used to estimate the energy bills as at February 2011.