Ann Widdecombe does not support the Winter fuel allowance and from what I heard on The Daily Politics today her main argument is that the allowance goes to any household in which there is a pensioner irrespective of the amount of money going in. This is a principled position but one which could be opposed on principle. Some may say that means testing is complex and adds to the cost of the benefit and if it is not universal then the benefit may not get to those who need it due to the complexity of the process.
Ann is looking for the Government to change to a system in which pensioners have to ask for the benefit or only give it to pensioners earning less than £40,000 or £50,000. The problem with the former is that pride comes into play as well as other aspects which make the system unfair. The problem with the latter is that safety nets cause poverty traps.
My impression is that those with earnings of £40.000 are not going to die from the cold but I could be wrong. There may be many who fall into Mr Micawber's misery category. "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery".
Pensioners do die of cold and Ann tells us that inadequate heating contributes to the death of thousands. She doesn't like the idea of millionaires getting the government handouts and neither do I. There may be some millionaires who are miserable according to Mr Micawber but they won't get much sympathy.
There are clearly arguments on all sides of this particular benefit debate. Ann may well be right in supporting a cap on winter heating benefits however I can see more arguments against the cap on all benefits and this is a debate which sounds like it could save the government a lot more money.