§ 45. Mr. Victor Yates
asked the Minister of Social Security if she will make a statement on the results of her inquiry into the effect of fuel costs on the standard o living of pensioners.
§ Mr. Yates
In view of the fact that a number of old-age pensioners in Birmingham have been under the mistaken impression that they could send their fuel bills to the Ministry for payment, when 862 my right hon. Friend completes her inquiry will she see that they are in no doubt about their rights, since this burdensome misconception is unfortunate?
§ Mrs. Hart
A number of cases in various parts of the country have been reported to my Ministry and appropriate action has been taken. As a result of discussions within my Ministry, I am concerned to ask this open-ended question and to see what the inquiry shows. This is a matter of asking the right questions and not prejudging what the answers will be. I know that my hon. Friend will be the first to agree with that approach.
§ Mr. Worsley
Will the right hon. Lady ensure that, among the right questions, the whole matter of regional differentiation will be kept in mind, particularly the difference in costs of fuel in different areas and the different need for fuel according to climate?
§ Mr. Dempsey
Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the main reasons for this problem is that the general element of 5s. allowed in supplementary benefits is far too low? Would she consider stepping this up to a more realistic level, which would help the old folks considerably in winter?
§ Mrs. Hart
The whole question of what is a realistic level is bound to depend on the kind of choice available to old people and particularly to the kind of limitation of choice which they face when they are, perhaps, rehoused by a local authority, and the kind of house which uses a particular kind of fuel. These are the sorts of questions which led me to initiate the inquiry.