asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will consider giving people over 80 years who are not in receipt of supplementary pensions a fuel allowance as of right; how many people would be involved; and what the estimated cost would be.
The substantial package of fuel help, announced by my right hon. Friend on 27 March—[Vol. 981, c. 1658–63]—directs assistance to specific groups of low income consumers likely to incur large fuel bills, in particular, the elderly and disabled on supplementary benefit. Some elderly people on low incomes, not previously eligible for supplementary benefit, may, as a result of the measures in this package, become eligible, and they should apply for benefit. Given current economic constraints, help to consumers on higher incomes is not at present envisaged.An estimated 1 million people are aged over 80 and not in receipt of supplementary benefit. The cost of paying a fuel allowance to them would depend upon the level of that allowance. At a weekly rate equivalent to the basic rate of supplementary benefit heating allowance in November 1980—£1·40—the cost would be over £70 million a year.