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Wednesday, June 10, 1998 Published at 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK

UK Politics

Government urged to end cold weather deaths

Dr Peter Brand: calling for an end to fuel poverty

The government is being urged to end the health risks faced by millions of people living in cold homes during the winter and reduce the estimated 30,000 deaths caused each year by cold weather by helping those who suffer from 'fuel poverty'.

The Liberal Democrat MP, Dr Peter Brand, a GP, told the Commons that the UK suffered more cases of hypothermia than Scandinavian countries despite their much colder climate.

This was the result, he said, of fuel poverty. He asked the government to take action to insulate the homes of those at risk, most often elderly people living alone, in order both to increase energy efficiency for the sake of the environment and to reduce fuel bills for the least well off.

'Ten million suffer in winter'

He said: "There are probably 10 million people shivering in the winter unnecessarily. What we need is homes fitted with materials and appliances which prevent energy loss and which provide sufficient heating.

"If we had a proper scheme for home insulation and proper heating, that action would actually save money in the long run because it would cut costs, not only for the NHS but also to the Department of Social Security."

Dr Brand urged the government to fund more large-scale home insulation projects, using resources including the environmental task force set up through the New Deal scheme.

Cross party coalition

Angela Eagle says making housing cheaper to heat should be a priority
Calls for measures to reduce fuel poverty, referred to by Anna Eagle, a junior minister at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, as a form of "social exclusion" received support from all sides of the House.

But the Conservative MP Bernard Jenkins warned that simply spending more money on the issue was not the answer.

Determined to tackle poverty

[ image: Anna Eagle: proposals under review]
Anna Eagle: proposals under review
Ms Eagle said the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, one of the key government instruments in tackling fuel poverty, was currently under review and that Labour was committed to making changes to make a "good scheme even better" .

She said: "I have launched a national debate on how we might best achieve our aim of getting rid of the evils of fuel poverty.

"My officials are actively studying how we might produce coherent and integrated strategies that go to the heart of the problem and we are reviewing existing programmes to see if they can be targeted better."

Ms Eagle said her officials were studying the idea of bringing in local health authorities to consider ways to increase the prevention of illnesses and deaths related simply to cold weather.

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