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1979-1987 : Mr Major’s Written Parliamentary Answer on Severe Weather Payments

Below is the text of Mr Major's written Parliamentary Answer on Severe Weather Payments on 1st December 1986.


Mr. Blair Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will list those areas in the north-east and Cumbria which have experienced weekly average temperatures below -1.5°C. in 1985–86; if he will list the number of weeks such temperatures were experienced; and what estimate he has made of the amount of money involved in severe weather payments to these areas: (a) under his present system of exceptionally severe weather payments and (b) under his proposed system;

(2) if he will list those areas in Scotland which have experienced weekly average temperatures below -1.5°C. in 1985-86; if he will list the number of weeks such temperatures were experienced; and what is his estimate of the amount of money involved in severe weather payments to these areas (a) under the present system of exceptionally severe weather payments and (b) under his proposed system.

Mr. Major Details of the areas in which exceptionally cold weather payments would have been made under the proposed new criteria last winter are contained in annex C to the report published by the Social Security Advisory Committee on these proposals (Cm. 18), and annex B to the Secretary of State's statement published with that report.

Payments actually made by the Department's local offices in the north-east of England and Cumbria last winter totalled approximately £2 million. Final figures are awaited from some local offices in Scotland, but the provisional total for local offices for which returns have so far been received is approximately £1.9 million. It is not possible to make a reliable estimate of what expenditure would have been under the proposed new rules last winter since this would depend on claimants' capital holdings and take-up in the areas concerned.

Mr. Meacher Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will estimate the average annual expenditure over a five-year period on the proposed cold weather payments.

Mr. Major It is not sensible to make projections for the future since the crucial factor - the weather - cannot be predicted. Nor is it possible to make valid retrospective assessment, since amounts paid would depend on claimants' capital holdings and take-up in the attached areas. However, our intention and expectation is that, over the years, the new system implies help on broadly the same scale as has operated in the years since 1980.