HC Deb 15 March 1999 vol 327 c486W
Mrs. Ewing

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what discussions he has had with the Meteorological Office concerning its proposals to pilot a study of weather stations in Scotland to take account of the wind chill factor in the assessment of cold weather payments; how much such a scheme would cost; and what plans he has to initiate such a scheme. [76146]

Angela Eagle

No discussions have taken place with the Meteorological Office on such a pilot. Nor is it possible to estimate the cost of introducing into the current scheme an allowance for the effects of wind speed because no trigger criterion exists combining it with external air temperature.

A number of formulae are used to calculate the combined effects of air temperature and wind speed on the human body when in the open air (commonly referred to as "windchill"). However, the Building Research Establishment advises that these are not appropriate when assessing heat loss from buildings, because different heat transfer mechanisms apply.

We are committed to tackling the problems associated with vulnerable people keeping warm and have already introduced numerous substantial measures to meet this objective. The most recent ones were announced in the Budget and will provide extra help for pensioners and young children in low income families. They include increasing the level of Winter Fuel Payments for pensioner households to £100 from next Winter and a substantial increase in the rates of benefit payable in income-related benefits for children under the age of eleven. The Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill proposals will also provide extra help for those in greatest need who have a long-term illness or are disabled.

Taking into account all the measures already introduced we do not believe that amending the Cold Weather Payment scheme would be the most effective way to get help to those who need it most.

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