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Pensioner Poverty

Volume 523: debated on Monday 14 February 2011

We have restored the earnings link for the basic state pension and given a triple guarantee that the basic state pension will increase by the highest of earnings, prices or 2.5%. We are also protecting key benefits for older people and working to ensure that older people receive the help to which they are entitled.

My hon. Friend may recall the “Tackling Pensioner Poverty” report produced by the Select Committee on Work and Pensions in the previous Parliament. The Committee was concerned that many pensioners who are entitled to pension credit are simply not claiming it. What measures are the Government taking to ensure that support reaches those who need it most?

One thing we are considering is whether the data we hold about people can be used better. We are therefore undertaking a modest research study, drawing on data that my Department and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs hold to see whether we can identify people who look as if they ought to be getting pension credit but who are not doing so. We will then make automatic payments to them, and test how that works over a pilot period, on which we will report in the summer.

Rumour has it that the Minister believes that introducing a universal pension will be a solution to many of the problems in the pension system. If that is the case, why has he not published the Green Paper we were promised in December? Is it because he is facing some resistance from the Treasury?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that point. I can do no more than quote my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, who told the House in November:

“The Treasury is working with the Department for Work and Pensions on potential pension reform that could simplify pensions and provide a boost to pensioners for many years to come.”—[Official Report, 16 November 2010; Vol. 518, c. 726.]

How right he was.