HC Deb 10 January 2000 vol 342 c12
9. Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

How successful his Department was in getting winter fuel payments to all eligible pensioners before Christmas. [102935]

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Mr. Jeff Rooker)

The payment process for the winter fuel payments went extremely well indeed. Some 10 million people in more than 7.5 million households were issued with their winter fuel payments before Christmas.

Helen Jones

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. In view of the judgment of the European Court in the Taylor case, what action will he take to get payments to those who are now deemed eligible for them?

Mr. Rooker

We shall take every action, because the judgment means that everyone who is ordinarily resident in Great Britain and aged over 60 is eligible. Significantly, that includes people who are not in receipt of any of the qualifying benefits and, because the payments are non-contributory and not means-tested, it includes those who are working. We are committed to finding the extra 1.5 million people to pay them what they are owed for the past two years and we will make an announcement on the issue in due course.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

I am encouraged to hear that all pensioners over 60 are eligible for winter fuel payments. Can the Minister explain why Mrs. Stockdale of Leeming village has not received a winter fuel payment for 1999 or 1998?

Mr. Rooker

I did not talk about pensioners. In the context of the European Court's decision, it is no longer appropriate to talk about pensioners. Everyone aged over 60 who is ordinarily resident in this country is eligible, whether they work or not. I cannot explain why someone has been missed out more than once, but if the hon. Lady will give me the details, we will do our best to rectify the mistake forthwith.