HC Deb 10 December 2001 vol 376 cc589-90
12. Mr. David Rendel (Newbury)

If he will make a statement on the progress made in paying backdated winter fuel payments to newly entitled men.[19153]

The Minister for Pensions (Mr. Ian McCartney)

Following the extension of the winter fuel payment scheme to most people aged 60 and over, there have been around 1.2 million claims for the first three years of the scheme. There are no time limits for claiming those backdated payments, and we continue to receive and pay claims. About 16,000 people will benefit from the winter fuel payment in the Newbury constituency this winter.

Mr. Rendel

I am grateful to the Minister for the information about the Newbury constituency, but why has not the Department tracked down, perhaps using its very expensive new computer systems, those who are eligible but have not yet claimed, so that they could be sent an individual letter to their own homes telling them that the money is now due?

Mr. McCartney

We have already paid more than 1 million claims for past winters, and we continue to advertise at all levels in the community in that regard. I cannot force someone to make a claim, but it is absolutely certain that if people make claims and are entitled to the money, they will be paid as quickly as possible. In addition, our home energy efficiency scheme has provided grants of up to £2,000 to heat the homes of up to 250,000 over-60s in the first two years, and 1 million low-income homes have also benefited from the tax changes under our affordable warmth programme. So, at every level, the Government are encouraging the people who are entitled to claim to do so.