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Cold Weather Payments

Volume 721: debated on Monday 31 October 2022

1. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the criteria for cold weather payments. (901910)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I also associate myself with your remarks regarding Paul Pelosi and the Speaker in the United States. Our thoughts are with them both.

It is a huge honour to stand here as the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. In so doing, I pay tribute to all those who have preceded me, in particular my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith), who was an outstanding Secretary of State and also an outstanding Minister of State for disabled people.

The cold weather payment’s design ensures that support reaches those most vulnerable. The energy price guarantee is supporting millions of households with energy costs from now until April 2023. This is on top of the cost of living support worth more than £37 billion for around 8 million households on means-tested benefits.

Mr Speaker, may I associate myself with your remarks about the Pelosi family?

I congratulate the right hon. Member on his appointment. The £25 cold weather payment rate has not been updated since 2008. In today’s money, it should be worth £37. Parts of Blaenau Gwent are more than 1,000 feet above sea level, and the constituency itself is one of the most deprived in the UK. Will the Secretary of State look again at the criteria for this scheme? Surely areas with bad weather, higher energy costs and lower incomes should get a fairer deal.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s question, because these are very important payments. They are automatic, as he will know. Typically, they are received within 14 days and they are targeted at those who are most vulnerable. His point about the particular local conditions and the elevation of parts of his constituency are well made and I would be very happy to have further discussions with him about that. I should point out though that I believe there are 72 different weather stations to serve as reference points for different temperatures, so it may be that there is one very close to the area he describes.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new position. Will he tell the House what progress his Department is making to increase the uptake of pension credit, which means that more vulnerable elderly people will be eligible for cold weather payments?

My hon. Friend is right to raise this very important benefit, pension credit. He will be aware that the Department has been fully engaged in encouraging pensioners who will qualify to take up this benefit, and it is important that they do, because it is worth more than £3,000 a year and it is a gateway benefit for other benefits in turn. I pay tribute to the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), who has done a great deal to push greater uptake, including a week of effort back in June when the uptake increased by 275% in that week.