Right. Can I slip in here? It is quite interesting. Such a full house. We have chatted about the humorous elements of the Arts Council. We have gone on about the Olympic Games. We have heard about press coverage. We all had a good laugh. I think that is not, absolutely, enough, what you are putting forward here. This is one serious matter.
Let me put some statistics to you. In 2007 in London 2,693 people died during winter time. Let us look at other statistics regards giving out the opportunity to elderly people when they can, if they wish, apply for grants. 2007. £4.5 billion in winter fuel benefits were not claimed because the applications were too difficult. Other figures from 2007: 2.5 million elderly people lived in one room, did not get out of their bed, or had to choose between eating or heating their homes. 2008. The statistics get even worse. 4.5 million elderly people live in one room, in a three bedroom house, simply because they do not have the finances to actually heat and eat. That is double from 2007. Unfortunately I do not have the figures for 2008.
It is all quite honourable, Mayor, that you actually do put this programme forward but I personally feel it is absolutely a waste of time. Maybe you should follow the lines of Mr Brown. £670 million - it is obviously election year - is going to go towards trying to help the elderly. Maybe, Mayor Boris, you should take the lead and forget this idea of allowing people to apply for these grants when you know damn well that elderly people, beyond the age of 60, find it too humbling, or they are too proud, to go cap in hand to Government with the idea of getting something for nothing.
We have the mechanism in place - and this is where the question comes - Mayor Boris. I would like you to take the initiative. We have the mechanism in place care of the London borough councils and also care of Help the Aged, also surveys done with Help the Aged and with the British Gas Board, to go directly to these elderly people and give them the money, rather than asking them to come towards you, or to this council, or to London borough councils, begging for it. We know who they are. We have agencies out there who can tell us who needs the money most. They can also tell us how much they need over the period of the winter period.
So I would like to ask you, Mayor, if you will take the initiative to go beyond whatever work Mr Barnes has done and make a statement to London, primarily the elderly, that you will give them directly the money they need, without them having to go through the process of applying for it?