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State Pension

Volume 268: debated on Tuesday 12 December 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent representations he has received about the state pension. [3566]

I recently met representatives of Age Concern and Pensioners' Voice. On both occasions we had a useful discussion that covered matters relating to the state pension.

I can well imagine. Is it not a fact that whereas in the 1970s the state pension amounted to one third of average earnings, it now amounts to one quarter? In view of the widespread poverty that undoubtedly exists among so many pensioners, why will those who are on income support not receive one penny of cold weather allowance simply because the freezing weather lasted less than seven days and seven nights? Does not that show how farcical the scheme is? Many pensioners continue to live in cold conditions, which Ministers would not like to do for one minute.

The hon. Gentleman has argued for the earnings link to be restored, and he has argued today for massive increases in spending. It would cost £10.1 billion to restore the earnings link. If he wants to impose on the working man further taxes of £8.58 a week, he should ask himself whether he should have been one of the honest men who voted against tax cuts last week.

Does my hon. Friend accept that occupational pensions have raised the income of pensioners tremendously over the past 15 years? What would be the impact of imposing a charge on pensions, as the French Government do?

My hon. Friend is right. Two thirds of people retiring now have occupational pensions. Britain has £500 billion of assets—more than the rest of Europe put together—in occupational pension schemes. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) should ask himself whether this Government have enabled pensioners to enjoy a far better deal than they ever did under Labour, when there was 27 per cent. inflation and not even the Christmas bonus was paid.

As one of the 10 Members of Parliament who did vote against a reduction in income tax, I believe that it is possible to find £10 billion for pensioners. The Government are spending nearly £30 billion on keeping people idle, and if that changed there would be more money for pensioners. The Government have had £120 billion from North sea tax receipts and £80 billion from privatised utilities. There is plenty of money in the country. The truth is that pensioners have been robbed blind by the Government, and it is time that the Government were kicked out.

The hon. Gentleman's figures are wrong—as usual. This country now has £16,000 billion-worth of assets invested overseas, thanks to the Government and their policies. The hon. Gentleman should have a word with his Front Benchers and tell them that he wants to see taxes rise, as do most Opposition Members. He is one of the honest men.