Mel Stride responds to questioning on pension triple lock plans
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Rishi Sunak is expected to stick by the Tory manifesto promise to inflation-proof state pension rises in next week’s Autumn Budget. The Prime Minister has heard the voices of the 300,000 people who backed our crusade. And a minister assured MPs pensioners will not be “shortchanged”.
But campaigner Dennis Reed warned: “What we need to do is keep up the pressure and not warned: “What we need to do is keep up the pressure and not switch off.
“Because of all the times we have been marched up the hill and back down again, I won’t be counting my chickens until it is announced in Parliament in the autumn statement.”
The director of campaign group Silver Voices organised our petition, which has been championed by MPs and pension support groups.
Confidence that the threat hanging over the triple lock will be lifted surged yesterday after Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride vowed pensioners will be kept at the “forefront” as difficult spending decisions are taken.
Speaking during a Commons debate, organised by Labour, on the issue, he said: “The perceived answer is that we will shortchange pensioners in some way and that is far from necessarily the outcome we will see.”
Mr Stride assured pensioners that the Government would seek to protect them through the months ahead but warned of tough decisions ahead.
He said: “It’s only right that we are honest with the public and honest in this House about the ramifications of that situation and we are going see, on November 17, some very difficult choices brought forward by the Chancellor both on tax and spending.
“This country has to demonstrate that it will live within its means, that it will act fiscally, responsibly and, as a consequence of that, we can see bond yields softening, interest rates softening, which will be good for mortgage holders, good for businesses who are borrowing and good for the servicing costs of the Government and its national debt.
“But within those hard choices, there is a core mission that this Government has and that is to look after the most vulnerable.
“This Government cares about those that have the least and is there to protect them at every turn.”
The triple lock is a government policy that ensures the state pension must rise by whichever is highest – average earnings, inflation or 2.5 per cent.
But raising state pensions and benefits with soaring inflation could cost a combined £11billion next year. However, it would prevent a rebellion from some Tory MPs and avert at least some criticism of the challenging decisions being unfair.
Members of Mr Sunak’s Cabinet, including Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, have previously warned against going back on the manifesto commitment of maintaining the triple lock as inflation soars past 10 per cent.
But with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt considering up to £35billion of “fiscal tightening”, any extra spending would leave more severe savings and higher tax hikes required elsewhere. Mr Sunak met with his Cabinet on Tuesday as he seeks to find departmental savings.
During the Commons debate, Conservative former ministers Sir John Hayes and Kevin Foster were among MPs calling on the Government to reinstate the triple lock.
Sir John suggested he would rebel against the Government if it did not honour its commitment to the triple lock.
He said: “If the Government were to propose breaking that promise, they wouldn’t have my support and they know that. I would stand by the triple lock.”
Mr Foster said: “The rise in prices has hit many people and of course many of those over the state retirement age are unlikely to have the type of options that others may do to meet some of those rising costs. Therefore, it is vital we look to honour the pledge that we made to them.
“I accept why that can’t be immediately pledged today but it’s certainly one I’ll look forward to hearing further clarity on.”
Gagan Mohindra, Conservative MP for South West Hertfordshire, said: “Like many of my colleagues I receive countless correspondence from my constituents pleading to retain the triple lock and I look forward to, hopefully, that decision being the case in nine days.”
North Norfolk Tory MP Duncan Baker claimed the triple lock “really does matter” to his constituency.
He added: “One in three of my constituents are over the age of 65. In the last decade alone, that is an increase of 17.8 per cent in those who are over 65.”
MPs voted 218-0 in favour of Labour’s non-binding motion calling on the Government to commit to maintaining the state pension triple lock in 2023/24.
Former minister Sir Christopher Chope was the only Conservative MP to vote in favour of the motion, according to the division list.
Opening the debate, shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “We are asking the House to stand firm in instructing the Chancellor and Prime Minister to honour the triple lock promise and uprate the pension in line with inflation for the next financial year.”
- Sign the Daily Express and Silver Voices online petition at www.change.org/triple-lock-crusade.
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