Despite the frightening choice for some people between eating or heating this winter, I’ve never read or heard any discussion about a possible survival strategy that arose in a cross-subsidy seminar when, in the 1960s, I was a St Andrews University economics student.

We oldies well remember when electricity was priced according to a tariff based upon usage: the more used, the cheaper. Why not reverse that system? All that is required is for an accurate calculation of how much energy is essential for, say, a three-person household.

Fuel is then supplied to everyone at that quantity and low price. The suppliers can then recoup losses made by the compulsory subsidy of the basic energy by progressively increasing the price of excessive fuel consumption. No extra taxpayer cash need be involved.

We also remember Second World War days when food was rationed according to sound nutritional values and obesity became rare.

Why not establish a list of, say, a dozen essential basic foods (i.e. not sugar and other junk foods) and require those to be sold at subsidised prices? That way, no one need go hungry or poorly nourished. The sellers could recoup their losses on the subsidised essentials by raising the prices of remaining food stuffs.

Doing both enables pensioners and other low-income groups to afford to both eat and heat.

Since everyone benefits from the stabilisation and lower prices of essential items, the plan may even win useful votes. There will be some snags (such as hoarding and corruption) but the idea seems sound and with well-chosen foods our national health would improve as it did in the Second World War under intelligent rationing. Worth trying?

Tim Flinn

Beech Cottage