HC Deb 06 March 1986 vol 93 cc239-40W
Mr. Ron Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has received any recent representations from Scotland about the operation of the exceptionally severe weather payments scheme; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Newton

I met the members of the Scottish Labour group on 27 February to discuss, among other things, the subject of help with fuel costs during exceptionally severe weather. The matter was also touched on at a meeting between my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) on 11 February to discuss the wider issues of a "cold climate allowance". A number of letters have also been received.

Following revised guidance issued by the chief adjudication officer on 6 December the decision whether there has been a period of exceptionally severe weather in any particular area is one for the local adjudication officer, in the light of local weather conditions. I understand that all the local offices for the Scottish mainland have now decided that the weather has fulfilled the requirements of the relevant single payments regulation.

Mr. Major

The information is not readily available in the form requested, and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. The following table sets out the details which are available.

Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many local Department of Health and Social Security offices have made additional payments to benefits claimants in each of the last seven years owing to exceptionally severe weather conditions; and what range of payments were made available.

Mr. Newton

No information is available for 1979 and 1980. The weather was not considered to be exceptionally severe during 1981, 1983 and 1984 and therefore no single payments in respect of additional fuel used during a period of exceptionally severe weather were made in those years.

In 1982 the weather was considered to be exceptionally severe in all local office areas in Great Britain. In 1985, it was considered to be exceptionally severe in a total of 288 local office areas in England and Wales, and this year all local offices except one (Lerwick) have declared the weather to be exceptionally severe in their area.

Information on the range of payments made during the relevant years is not available.