Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Winter fuel allowances debate

The SNP MP for Angus, Mike Weir, used a short Westminster Hall debate on 27 November 2012 to urge the government to change the rules on Winter Fuel Allowance for people whose homes are not connected to the mains gas grid.

Mr Weir has already proposed legislation that would allow early payment of the allowance to pensioners who have no mains gas, and who instead use oil, liquid petroleum or propane gas for heating.

Winter fuel allowance is an annual payment made to pensioners to help with heating costs, and was believed to benefit over 9m homes in 2010-11.

This winter, people born before 6 July 1951 will be eligible for the payment, which will be between £100 and £300.

Currently people can qualify for the allowance on the third Monday in September, although Mr Weir's bill would allow eligible homes to receive the money in the third week of July.

Speaking during the debate he said that "successive governments have called for the extension of the mains gas scheme as a solution", but insisted that for people living in rural and island communities "this is out of the range of many people".

Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb said that the problem of changing the rules would be the costs of making sure the data was updated every year to take account of homes becoming connected to the mains grid.

Instead he pointed to a number of other schemes to help vulnerable people with their fuel bills, including the Warm Home Discount Scheme, by which energy suppliers agree to give discounts on energy bills to older households who receive certain benefits.

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