SNP WESTMINSTER spokesperson on energy, Angus MP Mike Weir, has welcomed support for his private member’s bill to make payment of the winter fuel allowance to pensioners off the gas grid at an earlier date from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Off Gas Grid.
Speaking in a Parliamentary debate on off gas grid fuel he called upon the new Energy Minister to take some “ministerial militancy” to get action over the issue.
The group has released a report into the off gas grid system and one of the recommendations called upon the Department of Work and Pensions to “Urgently reconsider its opposition to Mike Weir MP’s private members bill”.
Welcoming the support Mr Weir said: “I have long argued that bringing forward the payment of winter fuel allowance to eligible pensioners who are off the gas grid would allow them to make purchases of fuel before the winter sets in and prices normally rise substantially.
“The whole purpose of the payment is to ensure that funds are available when the winter fuel bill arrives, which the present system does very well for those who pay their bills quarterly.
“Unfortunately those off the gas grid will generally find prices more expensive at that time and may have had considerable difficulty in getting or paying for supplies over the winter months.”
Mr Weir noted that the main difficulty for the UK government appeared to be officials telling ministers that it was “too difficult” or “too expensive” to enact.
He went on: “I do recall, however, a story that when Ted Heath was Prime Minister and wanted to introduce the pensioners’ Christmas Bonus officials kept telling him it was too difficult or too expensive. He simply went on television and announced it was being introduced. Miraculously all the difficulties disappeared and the department found a way to introduce the payment.
“Perhaps it is time for some ministerial militancy from this minister to get progress on this issue, and to encourage him I have lodged a new clause to the Energy Bill incorporating the main elements of my bill.”