The festive season in Britain got off to a grim start with the discovery of two pensioners who died weeks after their gas supply was cut off because of an unpaid bill of £140. These events happened, not in 1840 but in our own times. The Office of National Statistics predicts that 2,500 people will die of cold this week. The cause of these deaths is usually attributed to things like influenza, heart attacks, pneumonia and the like. But the real cause in most cases is poverty and neglect.

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