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Pension Credit

Volume 403: debated on Monday 14 April 2003

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What estimate he has made of the number of pensioners who will be in receipt of means-tested benefits once the pension credit has been introduced. [108716]

About half of pensioners will be entitled to pension credit when it is introduced in October, and they stand to gain on average £400 a year. We want as many people as possible who are entitled to it to receive the pension credit. We outlined earlier this Session the measures that we are taking to improve take-up.

The Minister might have answered the question, but perhaps he could explain what his colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle), meant when she said in response to Question 5 that the pension credit was not means-tested. What on earth can she have meant?

This is an income-tested scheme, but it excludes those with savings of less than £6,000—[Interruption.] We are grappling with problems, but the Opposition are prattling about them. I would rather be grappling than prattling. We are grappling with the issue, and want to increase take-up as much as possible. The system will benefit pensioners. Whereas the previous Administration—[Interruption.] I know that it is boring to talk about it, but I shall do so. Whereas the previous Administration penalised people who saved, we are rewarding them.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on behalf of pensioners in Hamilton, South, who welcome the minimum income guarantee and who will, I hope, benefit from the pension credit as well. However, will he join me in condemning those who continue to seek to carry on with the rhetoric of how we look at means-testing benefit instead of accepting the benefit and arguing strongly that pensioners have a right to receive it, and that right is not means-tested?

I thank my hon.Friend for a serious question about a serious issue that should be treated seriously by Members on both sides of the House. Pension credit is an important new weapon in our attack on pensioner poverty. I am pleased that in absolute terms pensioner poverty is now down by 60 per cent. under this Labour Government, and in relative terms the number of old people in poverty has declined by 400,000. Those are results, and we will get better results when we introduce the pension credit.