Ministers blamed 'ridiculous' European Court of Justice rules today as official figures revealed a near 70 per cent jump in Government winter fuel payments to ex-pats and pensioners living across Europe.
The Department of Work and Pensions paid a record £21.4 million to nearly 120,000 OAPs across the 'European Ecomomic Area' in 2012-2013.
Pensioners in Spain, Greece and Cyprus all pocketed the cheques, which are designed to help the elderly pay their gas and electricity bills.
Officials said the huge increase followed a judgement from the European Courts of Justice last year which allowed pensioners living across the Europe to apply if they proved "sufficient" links to Britain, such as having worked here.
Earlier this year George Osborne said: "From the autumn of 2015, we will link the winter fuel payment to a temperature test. People in hot countries will no longer get it. It is, after all, a payment for winter fuel."
More: Expats in France look set to lose winter fuel allowance
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