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State Pensions

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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3.

What discussions he has had with the DSS about the level of future financial provision for state pensions. [16587]

I have regular meetings with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, at which we discuss a wide range of issues, including pensions.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he accept from my constituents and all Labour Members sincere thanks for the statement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor last Tuesday, in which he announced help for pensioners throughout the winter and over the Christmas period? That is most welcome. Will my right hon. Friend continue that good work in his talks with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security on improving pensions to a standard at which people no longer rely on handouts, but are offered a pension that sustains the quality of life that the old people of this country deserve?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support for the announcement on Tuesday. My hon. Friend has been in the forefront in campaigning for pensioners. I saw that when I visited his constituency recently. Of course, he is right. The Labour Government have delivered their promises to pensioners. We have cut VAT on fuel to 5 per cent. We have uprated pensions in line with prices, as we promised. We have cut fuel bills for pensioners by up £100 a year and there is more to come.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has announced a pensions review. We are encouraging pensioners to ensure that they receive all the entitlements that are available to them. Last week, we launched a document on stakeholder pensions which is designed to encourage people to have fully funded pensions in future. Next year we shall consult on the new citizenship pension. The Labour Government are delivering their promises to pensioners and, as a result, this winter many pensioners will no longer have to worry about whether they can heat their houses—something that never happened when the Tories were in power.

Will the Chief Secretary explain to a constituent of mine—a pensioner whom the pensions tax has hurt particularly hard because he belongs to a closed pension scheme—why he refused to extend to closed pension schemes the benefits afforded to charities when the pensions tax was introduced?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for referring to the measures we took in respect of charities— we appreciate that degree of support. As I have said before to the House and to the hon. Gentleman, our reforms to corporation tax announced in July and the further reforms announced on Tuesday are designed to encourage profitability in this country's companies, which, in turn, will benefit pension funds. The fact is that, since July, the reforms we have implemented have been widely welcomed as the far-sighted and long-term reform that people in this country wanted.

The stock market, which has a substantial bearing on the value of one's pension at retirement, has climbed since we were elected, which shows—among other things—that there is another sector that has absolute confidence in the Government's ability to deliver long-term, sustainable economic growth that will benefit pensioners and everybody else.

May I say to my right hon. Friend that there is no such thing as the pensions tax?