HC Deb 13 January 1998 vol 304 c199W
Dr. Lynne Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security for what reasons she has not made the new payments for assistance with winter fuel bills available to all groups receiving cold weather payments. [20624]

Mr. Denham

In our manifesto we made a commitment to review the central areas of insecurity for older people and examine ways to deliver more automatic help to the poorest pensioners. Work is underway in both areas, but we are not prepared to allow another winter to go by when pensioners are fearful of turning up their heating because they do not know whether they will get the help they need with their fuel bills. The additional help of £400 million over this winter and next, announced by the Chancellor on 25 November 1997, demonstrates the Government's commitment to help the elderly keep warm in their homes.

We have already taken action to cut fuel costs and make homes easier to heat. So far we have: reduced VAT on domestic fuel from eight to five per cent; reduced the gas levy to zero; extended energy efficiency grants and announced a reduction on VAT on energy saving installation schemes; announced the setting up of an Environmental Task Force which is expected to include a programme of energy efficiency improvements in the homes of the elderly; and, released almost £800 million to local authorities over the next two years to help meet pressing housing needs, which is expected to feature improved energy efficiency in many areas.