Just to be clear, no one currently receiving pension credit will have reduced payments at all because of the revised state pension age timetable. In future, however, we anticipate that about 120,000 households could be affected by the increase in the pension credit qualifying age as a result of the change to the equalisation timetable between 2016 and 2020.
Given that we know that the poorest pensioners are some of those who will be hardest hit by the Government’s changes in respect of equalisation, will the Minister consider de-linking entirely the increase in the qualifying age for pension credit, which is paid only to the poorest, and the increase in the threshold for women’s pensions? He says that he is worried that the relationship with his Tory masters is a bit cosy; here is an opportunity for him to strike a rare, Liberal, fair blow.
The hon. Gentleman is right that, on average, people of lower social classes and on lower incomes tend to have a shorter life expectancy. The good news is that life expectancy is rising for people on all income levels, so as we raise the state pension age, it is only right and proper that we raise the starting point for pension credit. It would be very strange to go on paying at 60 something called pension credit when the state pension age rises, as under the previous Government’s plans, to 66, 67 and 68.
In a reply to a written answer, the Minister admitted that half a million women will have to carry on working for longer than a year as a result of accelerating the equalisation of the state retirement age. In particular, women who were born in 1954 and expected to retire in 2018 aged 64 will not now get their state pension until they are 66 in 2020. That strikes me as incredibly unfair. What is the Minister going to do about it?
The hon. Lady is right: of the 5 million people who will be affected by the increase in the state pension, a relatively small age group will be affected as she describes. It would be an option to go more slowly, as the previous Government did, but, if we deferred all changes until 2020 in order to deal with the point that she makes, it would cost an extra £10 billion. Once again, we have a suggestion for £10 billion of extra spending but no suggestion of where the £10 billion might come from.