I propose to take Questions Nos. 1, 14, 29 and 32 together.
Two fuel schemes are in operation at present. A nationwide scheme, administered by health boards throughout the country applies to persons on social welfare pensions or health board payments who have no other income and who satisfy a living alone condition.
An urban fuel scheme operates in 17 cities and towns mainly along the eastern and southern seaboards. These schemes are administered by the local authorities and the schemes give automatic entitlement to persons in receipt of certain pensions and to certain persons on unemployment assistance. Under both schemes the value of the fuel allowance is £5 per week and the period of operation is 30 weeks from October to April.
As a result of a Supreme Court judgment in November last declaring the regulations governing the national fuel scheme to be ultra vires, the scheme in effect ceased to exist from that date. Pending a review of the situation, however, arrangements were made to enable health boards to continue to pay fuel allowances for the remainder of the present heating season in the same manner and under the same conditions of eligibility to those persons who would have received allowances previously. The urban fuel scheme was not affected by the judgement.
I am not aware that there has been any serious problem in the administration of the free fuel schemes in the meantime. I am having the situation examined at present to see what arrangements can be made to put the fuel schemes on a more rational basis while at the same time having regard to present financial constraints.