Lord Palmer pleads the case for those hit by fuel poverty

DURING a House of Lords debate last week, as the proposed Energy Bill was given a second reading, Lord Palmer, of Manderston, Duns, pleaded the case for those people caught in fuel poverty because of where they live.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 31st March 2010, 12:18 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2010, 12:18 pm

"I wish to plead the case for those severely disadvantaged people who have to toss a coin to discover whether its food of fuel that gets their limited budget," said Lord Palmer.

"My main concern is the geographic differences - a point I have often raised when fuel poverty has been discussed. I accept that it is a very complex issue and that it is expensive to administrate, which is one of the reasons why I have finally, albeit reluctantly, dropped my campaign for payments to be means tested.

"It is a sorry situation that the welfare benefits system in the United Kingdom takes no account whatever of the much higher costs associated with the geographical location of the claimant - even where there may be a considerable disadvantage. For example, it is obvious that the colder the climate, the greater the need for expenditure in order to keep the home warm.

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"Equally it is clear that where a household lacks access to the most economic source of domestic heating - normally mains gas - and is dependent on more expensive fuels such as LPG, any disadvantage is greatly worsened.

"This combination of circumstances is particularly prevalent in rural Scotland and demonstrates a failing of social security policy.

"There is virtually no recognition that different circumstances call for different levels of support. This is particularly true of energy costs, whereby the local climate can have a major bearing on the required expenditure. The colder the climate the greater the need for additional heating; and this has clear consequences for household budgets.

"I believe that factoring in wind chill would be of significant benefit to some of the most vulnerable households in the United Kingdom and would cost only 300 million. In relation to running Government quangos, which cost 32 billion per annum, that measure would surely be just kindling.

"In this day and age, and in this society in which we live, surely it is an absolute scandal that any resident of the United Kingdom is subject to any degree of fuel poverty."