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Pensioner Poverty

Volume 511: debated on Monday 14 June 2010

The Government want to see all pensioners have a decent and secure income in retirement. We will restore the earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011, with a triple guarantee that pensions are raised by the highest of earnings, prices or 2.5%. We will also protect key benefits for older people.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. What action, if any, is he able to take on a problem he himself identified, namely, the cliff-edge situation of women who have completed 30 years employment and who have made the necessary national insurance contributions, but who were born one or two days too early to get the pension that they deserve?

My hon. Friend raises an important point—in fact, it sounds vaguely familiar—and she is quite right that introducing changes in a cliff-edge manner, as the previous Government did, creates unfairnesses of the sort that she identifies. As she will know, when women are short of the necessary number of years, they can buy voluntary contributions, under a fairly restricted set of circumstances. That will allow some women to get closer to the full pension than they would otherwise have been able to get. However, she is absolutely right that the way in which the scheme was implemented by the previous Government creates an unfair cliff edge.

Many elderly people rely on services from local councils. Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House how the cuts imposed on Durham county council last week will affect, and reduce poverty for, pensioners in the county of Durham?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right to point out that when public finances are tight, all sectors of society risk having services threatened in the way that he describes. One of the incoming Government’s concerns was the huge hole in the public finances, which a Labour Government would also have had to fill. It would be interesting to know which cuts he thinks should be made, because there has been a silence from the Labour party on that very subject.