UPPER Bann MP David Simpson has urged the government to reverse its decision to cut the winter fuel payment for the most vulnerable in society. Speaking during a DUP Parliamentary debate on the subject David Simpson said: “Recently the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs made an apology to parliament and did a U-turn on the issue of forests. Wouldn’t it really be a truly extraordinary state of affairs if we found ourselves in a situation where when it came to the future of our forests, a member of Her Majesty’s government could come to the House and offer an apology, concede that the government had got it wrong, say that the government had now listened to the people and announce a change of direction. But when it came to our elderly, to some of the weakest and infirm and most vulnerable members of our society that there could be no such apology, or announcement or about turn.
“That is the distasteful core that is to be found at the centre of this debate and it is why we as a party brought this motion forward for debate here today.
The position in the United Kingdom at the moment is that since November last year energy suppliers have increased their prices by £224 on average. In just over five years, household energy bills have rocketed by 96 per cent. Fuel poverty has reached a stage where almost seven million homes are affected. The worst groups affected are single working parents, pensioners and couples living off one income.”
Almost nine in 10 households (89 per cent) will rations their energy use this winter to save on bills - as a result, potentially 23 million households will be switching off or turning down this winter, four million more than last year. More than half of people went without heating at some point last winter to keep energy costs down - this now looks set to rise. One in three households (37 per cent) are in ‘bill debt’, using credit to cover their day to day households bills.
“If ever there was a year that was exactly the worst time to introduce such a cut it is this year. If ever there was a year when introducing such a cut was precisely the last thing that government ought to do – it is this year.”
Speaking after the motion was defeated David Simpson said: “According to the Age Sector Platform. Last winter Northern Ireland faced the coldest December in over 100 years and 756 people aged 65+ died of cold related illnesses in Northern Ireland. Does anyone really suppose that with all of the additional costs, the price hikes, the increased bill debt, the reduced disposable income and the increasing rationing of warmth that we won’t witness more vulnerable people die needlessly this year? This government cut will cost lives. I would appeal to the government even now to think again.”