My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Kitty Ussher) has made the following Statement.
I am pleased to announce that, following advice from the Meteorological Office, the annual review of the cold weather payments scheme has now been completed. Amending regulations were laid on 6 October and will come into force on 27 October (in part) and on 1 November (remaining part), in time for the beginning of the winter period.
Two of the weather stations used to provide data for the scheme last winter, Great Malvern and Fylingdales, are being removed from the scheme and two alternative weather stations, Hereford-Credenhill and Leconfield, are being introduced. Great Malvern, a manned station, is closing as part of a network rationalisation that will place more reliance on automatic weather stations. The Fylingdales station is due to be automated. There is uncertainty over the supply of temperature data during the transition from manual to automatic observations. The alternative weather stations have been chosen to provide a neutral or indeed a more accurate assessment for those eligible.
I have written to each of the honourable Members affected by these changes.
The amending regulations also provide for an increase in the rate of a cold weather payment from £8.50 to £25 for winter of 2008-09 as announced on 11 September.
In order to maintain the policy intention of making cold weather payments to vulnerable groups, people in receipt of income-related employment and support allowance in the main phase have been added to the list of eligible customers, as have those in the assessment phase who have a pensioner or disability premium, or have a child who is disabled or under the age of five.
Cold weather payments are separate from, and in addition to, winter fuel payments which are paid to eligible people from age 60.