MP’s Bill to help pensioners’ fuel bills

Mike Weir MP

Mike Weir MP

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ANGUS MP Mike Weir brought forward a Private Members’ Bill on Wednesday that would help off-grid pensioner households beat soaring winter energy costs.

Mr Weir – one of just 20 MPs successful in a ballot to present a Bill in the House of Commons – said 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.

He believes that 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. He already has cross-party backing for the bill with MPs from Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat, DUP, SDLP and Plaid Cymru, as well as his SNP colleagues listed as co-sponsors.

Mr Weir, the SNP Energy and Climate Change spokesperson at Westminster, said: “There are huge problems with the off gas grid fuel market that hits rural areas such as Angus very badly. Unfortunately in a private members bill I cannot deal with all these problems and have decided to follow through on a campaign I have been conducting for some time, trying to get Ministers to, at the very least, introduce a measure that would help pensioners in often hard to heat rural properties.”

“While all households have been hit by rocketing energy prices, off-grid customers, who have no access to the reduced tariffs available to mains gas customers or any real possibility of taking the UK government’s advice to switch suppliers, are especially vulnerable.”

He went on: “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.

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