Skip to main content

Utility Bills

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 19 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of the impact of rises in utility bills since 2003 on pensioner incomes. (92753)

To ensure that all pensioner households are able to keep their homes warm throughout the winter period we introduced winter fuel payments in 1997. We have increased these from £20 in 1997-08 to the current value of £200 for people between 60 and 79 years of age, and £300 for the over 80s.

The Government are committed to combating poverty among today’s pensioners, for example by uprating the standard minimum guarantee in pension credit in line with earnings growth. In our Pension Reform White Paper we made a commitment to continue with this policy for the long term as part of the new overall pensions settlement.

Between 1996-07 and 2004-05 (the latest year for which pensioner income is available) incomes increased by 25 per cent. in real terms, compared with a 15 per cent. real terms increase in fuel prices and water bills between 1996-07 and 2006. It is important to note that while pensioner incomes tend to increase on a linear basis, with 4 per cent. real growth between 2003-04 and 2004-05 building on the growth in earlier years, utility prices tend to fluctuate. According to Office for National Statistics data, fuel prices and water bills fell by 9 per cent. in real terms between 1996 and 2003, before increasing by 27 per cent. between 2003 and 2006.