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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK

Lib Dems plan warmer homes

The Liberal Democrats say they have plans to eradicate "fuel poverty" for the elderly by introducing a UK-wide home insulation programme.

They promise that within 15 years, all homes in the UK would be properly insulated, saving the average family 6 a week on fuel bills.

And leader Charles Kennedy repeated the pledge to increase pensions by a higher rate than the Tories or Labour.

And the party unveiled celebrity supporter John Cleese, who urged voters to "fight the boredom" in the latest Lib Dem election broadcast.

Grey vote

At the party's morning news conference on Thursday, Mr Kennedy said that since Labour took power: "We have been the pensioners' opposition."

The Lib Dems say they would increase the basic state pension by 5 a week, with 10 a week for those over 75 and 15 for the over 80s.

It is the second day running that the party has chased the "grey vote".


" We have been the pensioners' opposition "
Charles Kennedy

On Wednesday Mr Kennedy - backed by the 75-year-old former Bond girl Honor Blackman - promised free nursing and personal care for all pensioners who needed it.

Lib Dem environment spokesman Don Foster said: "Fighting fuel poverty is an important first step in securing social justice for older people.

"Half of those in fuel poverty are elderly."

The party said it would negotiate with the EU to end VAT on all energy-conserving materials.

Social security spokeswoman Lady Walmsley told journalists that saving local post offices and improving public transport, particularly in rural areas, was vital to elderly people.

She said all people over 60 would receive free off-peak bus travel under a Lib Dem government.

Dignity

"We are the only party which will guarantee dignity, security and choice for older people," said Lady Walmsley.

Mr Kennedy said his party was committed to increasing the number of police officers by 6,000 in order to stop the fear of crime held by many older people.

And on the NHS he said there would be no age discrimination to ensure the elderly were afforded the dignity they deserved.

Real chance

"On pensions, on crime, on health and local services, only the Liberal Democrats offer older people a real chance for change," he said.

Mr Kennedy denied that the proposals had not been fully costed, saying they had been financially checked by independent academics.

"You can oppose these proposals if you disagree with them - they can't be opposed on the basis that they don't balance out because they do balance out," he said.

On Wednesday the party said that free personal and nursing care for the elderly, already available in Scotland, would be extended to England and Wales.

The older vote is considered important because although latest surveys suggest as few as 66% of the voters would turn out on polling day, that figure is much higher among pensioners.

Other studies suggest that three-quarters of people aged 18-25 would not bother to vote.

Narrating the latest Lib Dem radio election broadcast, Mr Cleese admits he is "bored to death" with the campaign.

In typical satirical style, the broadcast begins: "Hello, John Cleese here, bored to death with the election - everyone bleating away about how dreadful the other lot are.

"Well, don't let the old parties put you off, this election might just make a real difference to you."

The broadcast will be aired on Friday on BBC Radio 2, Classic FM, Virgin Radio and TalkSport.



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