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Cold Weather (Financial Assistance)

Volume 541: debated on Monday 5 March 2012

9. What assistance his Department has provided to vulnerable people to protect them from cold weather. (97698)

This winter, we have made more than 5 million cold weather payments at a cost of more than £129 million and over 12 million winter fuel payments at a cost of over £2 billion.

I would like to make a plea on behalf of the pensioners in my High Peak constituency, which, as the Minister’s colleagues on the Front Bench will know from previous visits, is one of the coldest in the country. Will the Minister concede that winters in High Peak are cold, bringing increased heating costs for all our residents, but more particularly for old-age pensioners?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Although I have not visited his constituency, I suspect there is a clue in the name. He will be pleased to know that three weather stations are linked to his constituency—Bingley, Woodford and Leek—and each has been triggered twice this winter, so low-income pensioners and disabled people will all have received £50 this winter to help them with their fuel bills.

Does the Minister accept that, despite the allowances, energy bills remain simply a nightmare for so many elderly and vulnerable people on low incomes, so would it not be appropriate for his Department to have a word with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and particularly with the Secretary of State, about the very substantial increases in energy prices, which, as I say, are the cause of so much misery for our elderly people?

I am sure the whole House would agree with the hon. Gentleman that high energy prices, poor home insulation and a lack of competition in the market are all issues for pensioners—and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is very much aware of them. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that 600,000 of the poorest pensioners received £120 off their electricity bills this winter through the warm home discount scheme—something that will be expanded in future winters.