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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 01:38 GMT 02:38 UK

UK Politics

Fuel payments ruling due

Women receive winter fuel payments five years before men get theirs

A member of the European Court of Justice will rule on Thursday whether the government's winter fuel payment regulations discriminate against men.

The ruling follows a complaint from John Taylor, a former postal worker from Ryedale, North Yorkshire.

Women can receive the benefit when they qualify for a state retirement pension at the age of 60, while men must wait until they are 65.

[ image: John Taylor: Claiming sex discrimination]
John Taylor: Claiming sex discrimination
Thursday's opinion is not binding on the other judges, but it is seen as a strong pointer to the likely outcome when the court rules in a few months' time.

It is thought that 800,000 men could benefit if Mr Taylor wins his case.

If the landmark case is won, then it could cost the government between £13m and £26m a year.

Mr Taylor will qualify for his state retirement pension when he is 65 next summer and the following winter he can expect £100 from the government to help towards his fuel bills.

He has accused the government of sex discrimination, contrary to European Law.

But the government says winter fuel benefit is directly linked to the retirement pension, which can be paid at different ages for men and women.

The case was referred to the European court last year after Mr Justice Scott Baker, sitting at the High Court in London, agreed it was appropriate for the challenge to go to Europe as it raised issues of EU law.

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