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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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MP Welcomes Action to Help Pensioners Beat Winter Heating Bills

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed a Private Members’ Bill that would help off-grid pensioner households beat soaring winter energy costs which is to be launched by SNP MP Mike Weir this week.

Mr Weir – one of just 20 MPs successful in a ballot to present a Bill in the House of Commons – said the Bill (the Winter Fuel Allowance Payments (Off-Grid Claimants) Bill) would provide for the early payment of Winter Fuel Allowance to pensioners whose homes are not connected to the mains grid and whose principal source of fuel is home fuel oil, liquid petroleum gas or propane gas.

Bringing forward payment of Winter Fuel Allowance would allow vulnerable consumers to fill up their tanks prior to the onset of winter and at a time when prices tend to be lower.  Mr Weir, who has long campaigned on the difficulties faced by off-gas grid energy consumers, now hopes to build cross-party support for the proposal.  Mr Weir’s Bill will formally be presented to Parliament on Wednesday 20 June.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I’m pleased to back the Bill that Mike Weir is putting forward as many of my constituents are “off-grid” and are hit hardest at the worst time of the year. 

 “To bring payments forward would mean very little to the Treasury as the cost would be the same as if the payments were left as they are.  The difference, however, would be that many elderly people would not be left in the predicament where they have to decide whether to eat or heat their home.”

Mike Weir, the SNP Energy and Climate Change spokesperson at Westminster, said:

"While all households have been hit by rocketing energy prices, off-grid customers, who have no access so social tariffs, are especially vulnerable.  This Bill would bring forward payment of the pensioners winter fuel allowance earlier in the year so households can fill their tanks prior to the onset of winter and when fuel prices tend to be cheaper.  Not only would this be a real help to older consumers but would be revenue neutral for the Treasury - merely bringing forward payments by a few months. This would provide real help at little or no additional cost.”

Mr Weir said the Scottish Government is doing everything in its powers to tackle fuel poverty but that off-grid customers have been ignored by the UK Government.

He added:

"The heating oil market is subject to sudden and very high price spikes and there is real concern amongst consumers that there is very little competition in the market, leaving them effectively with no option but to pay up.  Off-grid users are the only customers not to have access to social tariffs and a large number of the rural fuel poor are unable to get help with heating bills at all. It is vital that this situation is addressed, and action taken to introduce robust regulation to protect consumers."

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