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Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effects of measures introduced by his Department since 1997 on pensioners in (a) the UK, (b) the North East, (c) the Tees Valley and (d) Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland. (198003)

Latest available information shows that average net incomes of pensioner households in the UK increased by 29 per cent. between 1996-97 and 2005-06, and average net incomes of pensioner households in the North East increased by 29 per cent. between 1994-95 to 1996-97 and 2003-04 to 2005-06. Information for the Tees Valley and Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland is not available.

The Government have introduced a number of measures since 1997 to help older people to enjoy a better standard of living, most notably the introduction of the minimum income guarantee and its successor pension credit. We have successively raised the pension credit standard minimum guarantee by earnings in every year since its introduction. For 2008 the standard minimum guarantee will rise to £124.05—an increase of 4.2 per cent.—more than keeping pace with earnings and prices.

In addition we have introduced winter fuel payments for those aged 60 and over, including an extra one-off payment for winter 2008-09 of £50 for households with someone aged 60 to 79 and £100 for those with someone aged 80 or over announced in the Budget on 12 March 2008.

We have also introduced free television licences for people aged over 75 and from April 2008 those over 60 will be entitled to free off-peak bus travel in England. We have committed to increasing the basic state pension by earnings by 2012, subject to affordability and the fiscal position, or by the end of the next Parliament.

As a result of the personal tax and benefit changes that we have introduced pensioner households nationally will be around £1,500 a year better off in 2008-09 than they would have been under the 1997 system. The poorest third of pensioner households will on average be around £2,100 a year better off.

Our new public service agreement ‘Tackle poverty and promote greater independence and wellbeing in later life’ demonstrates our commitment to ensure that the specific needs of the older population are given due priority.