§ Miss McIntosh
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many representations he has received concerning delays in payment of Winter Fuel Payment since May 1997; 
(2) how many people received their Winter Fuel Payment on time in (a) 2000 and (b) 1999; 
(3) how many people have experienced delays in payment of Winter Fuel Payment lasting over (a) one month, (b) three months, (c) six months and (d) 12 months. 
§ Mr. Rooker
The administration of Winter Fuel Payments is a matter for Alexis Cleveland, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to the hon. Member.342W
Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Miss Anne McIntosh, dated 21 March 2001:
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions asking how many representations he has received concerning delays in payment of Winter Fuel Payment since May 1997; how many people received their Winter Fuel Payment on time in (a) 2000 and (b) 1999; and how many people have experienced delays in payment of Winter Fuel Payment lasting over (a) one month, (b) three months (c) six months, and (d) 12 months.
The information is not available in the format. requested, but I hope the following explanation of when payments were made might be helpful.
The Winter Fuel Payment scheme was introduced in the winter of 1997/1998 as one of the Government's initiatives to tackle fuel poverty in Great Britain.
In the first three winters of the scheme (1997/1998, 1998/1999 and 1999/2000) around 10 million people were eligible in each winter and paid automatically, where entitlement was established. These payments were made within the expected timetable.
In response to a European Court of Justice ruling in December 1999 the Government decided to equalise the age from which the Winter Fuel Payment is payable. The majority of people from age 60 could now benefit from the payments.
Following the court ruling, people who were newly eligible for a payment last winter, and were not in receipt of a social security benefit during the relevant qualifying week, apart from Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or Child Benefit, should have made a claim for their payment.
Last winter around 11 million payments, where entitlement was established, were made automatically before Christmas, as was the intention. So far we have also made payments in respect of successful claims determined by 12 January 2001. It is up to the individual to decide when and whether to make a claim. We are still receiving and processing claims for winter 1999/2000 payments. Claims for winter 2000/01 must be received before 31 March 2001.
Although the ruling was given in December 1999 it applied from the beginning of the scheme and payments in respect of past winters are being paid to those who are now entitled. People who think they are eligible for a payment for past winters must make a claim for their payments. There is no time limit for making claims for past winters.
I hope this is helpful.