§ Sir Hector Monro
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he intends to lay regulations relating to exceptionally severe weather payments.
§ Mr. Major
We have today laid before Parliament the Supplementary Benefit (Single Payments) Amendment Regulations 1986 which provide for a new system of exceptionally cold weather payments to take effect from 11 December 1986. These payments are in addition to the help given for heating through the main supplementary benefit scale rates and the weekly heating addition—payable automatically to supplementary benefit householders over the age of 65—which amounted to some £400 million in 1984–85.
The new regulations follow consultation with the Social Security Advisory Committee on proposals submitted to it in August. The committee's report on the proposals together with the Secretary of State's response has also been laid before Parliament today.
The committee support the main elements of the proposals as a significant improvement on the previous 327W schemes for exceptionally severe weather payments in terms of simplicity, comprehensibility and certainly of payment.
The regulations provide for a single payment of £5 for each week of exceptionally cold weather. A week will be declared exceptionally cold when the average temperature recorded over a seven-day period Monday to Sunday—is minus 1.5C or less. Decisions will be taken on the basis of data collected by the Meteorological Office in respect of 63 weather stations in Great Britain to which local office areas will be linked.
Supplementary benefit householders will be eligible for help where there is a member of the family who is aged 65 or over, chronically sick or disabled, or under age two. As with other single payments, claimants will not be eligible for help if they have savings over £500.
In the light of particular concerns expressed by the committee, the time limit for claiming has been extended to 13 weeks and the regulations make clear that one claim will normally be valid for continuous periods of exceptionally cold weather.
The Government are grateful to the committee for its consideration of the proposals and welcome its general endorsement.
The regulations also include a minor technical amendment confirming that single payments for rent in advance are not available for people taking up board and lodging. The social security advisory committee agreed not to have this matter referred to it.