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Pension Credit

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 6 June 2006

5. What discussions he has had with the Department for Work and Pensions on how to increase awareness of pension credit in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. (74957)

My right hon. Friend discusses a wide range of issues with ministerial colleagues. As my hon. Friend will be aware, tackling pensioner poverty is one of our key priorities and some 280,000 households in Scotland are in receipt of pension credit.

My hon. Friend has already said how many people in Scotland receive pension credit and, in my constituency, 5,650 people are in receipt of that benefit, which has been a huge help in providing many of my constituents with a route out of poverty. It has been a very effective policy from this Government, although some people have still not applied for it. Will he join me in encouraging those who are entitled to the credit to apply for it? Pensions are one of the big challenges that we face, and although the White Paper that has just been published is part of the long-term solution, pension credit is essential now to help pensioners.

My hon. Friend is right and I pay tribute to what she has done in her constituency to publicise the pension credit, which has led to the great take-up levels that she has mentioned. People talk a lot about the pensions crisis, but there was a genuine pensions crisis when we came to office—the crisis of pensioner poverty, which was at unprecedented levels and grew throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Pension credit has helped to tackle the appalling level of pensioner poverty that we inherited and we will continue to combat it.

When we consider the reasons why people do not take up pension credit, can we look at how Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is operating? From my recent constituency correspondence, especially in relation to overpayment of other tax credits, that department is rapidly becoming as dysfunctional as the Child Support Agency.

Pension credit is not paid by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, but by the Pension Service.