Pensioners’ fuel bill talked out in Commons

Mike Weir MP has expressed disappointment that his private members’ bill – to help pensioners in off-grid households beat winter fuel costs – has been unable to progress after the preceding bill was talked out by MPs representing the Coalition Government parties.

Mr Weir’s Winter Fuel Allowance (Off Gas Grid claimants) bill – which had cross-party support as well as backing from Citizens’ Advice and a coalition of organisations championing rural issues, including the NFU - would have brought forward the payment date for the winter fuel allowance to off-grid pensioners to allow them to fill up their tanks while fuel costs are cheaper.

Mr Weir said: “It is bitterly disappointing that the progress of this bill has been blocked by Tory and Lib Dem MPs who have contrived to leave pensioners out in the cold.

“The archaic procedures that prevented progress of this bill demonstrate that Westminster is totally unreformable, and that people in Scotland will be better off with independence.

“The was a straightforward bill, seeking a cost neutral amendment that would have delivered real help to many struggling pensioners in rural areas across the UK. The fact that the UK government is neither willing to look seriously at the matter, nor would even allow time for debate of the issue, shows how little they care about the concerns of pensioners who face fuel poverty.

“This bill was not controversial or revolutionary – it would not have extended the scheme, nor been costly but would simply have brought forward payments by a few months to ensure that off-grid pensioners could fill up their tanks and look forward to the winter with the assurance that they could heat their homes and would not face supply difficulties in bad weather.

“There will be real anger through rural areas of Scotland and the UK that they would not even sanction such a modest proposal to begin to tackle the immense problems that face off-grid consumers, whose energy bills are not only substantially higher but rising faster than those who have access to the gas grid. Yet again the rural fuel poor are being ignored.

“When winter fuel allowance was introduced it was claimed that payment would be made at a time when the bills became payable, but that is not the case with those off-grid and this bill would have tackled that anomaly.”