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Tax (Pensioners)

Volume 511: debated on Tuesday 8 June 2010

2. If he will assess the merits of increasing the level of financial assistance to pensioners through the tax system. (919)

This Government are committed to supporting pensioners to ensure that they can live with the respect and dignity they deserve. We have already said that we will restore the earnings link, protect key pensioner benefits and ensure that the retirement age can rise if pensioners want to continue working in order to support themselves. We think that, despite the fiscal deficit left to us by the former Government, that is the fairest way to proceed.

I thank the hon. Lady, and welcome her to her position—but I am somewhat disappointed in her answer, because she has not identified exactly how she will support our elderly people at a time when cuts will be made all over the country and will affect everyone, including pensioners. What priority will she give to pensioners? What kind of increased payments will be made to cover some of the cuts, which will hit pensioners harder than anyone else?

The hon. Gentleman seems to have missed the fact that this Government are having to tidy up a huge financial mess left to us by the previous one. We have made it clear that, despite that mess, we want, first, to protect key pensioner benefits—the benefits that Labour Members claimed we would take away—such as free bus passes, free prescriptions, free eye tests and the winter fuel allowance. That is a range of benefits that the Labour party said we would remove, but we are going to keep them. I can assure him on that, so he can go back to the pensioners in his constituency and explain why he was telling them mistruths during the last election.