Skip to main content

Pensioner Poverty

Volume 529: debated on Monday 13 June 2011

We recognise that poverty is about more than income and have introduced a new pensioner material deprivation indicator. It takes into consideration both financial and non-financial elements of poverty, such as ill health and social isolation. It offers a more direct measure of living standards and, used alongside low income measurements, will provide a greater understanding of pensioners’ experiences of poverty.

I am very proud that many people choose my constituency to retire to, and I am extremely grateful for all the measures that the Government have taken so far to address the horrific levels of pensioner poverty bequeathed by the previous Government. However, the proposed almost double-digit price rises by energy companies threaten to undermine those measures. What more can be done to address that problem?

My hon. Friend is right that keeping a home adequately warm is an important part of the standard of living of pensioners. That is why it is included in the broader measure of poverty that we will introduce. I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Energy Secretary, who said at the weekend that faced with double-digit price rises, we would encourage as many people as possible to shop around so that they do not have to pay those prices and can use the market to their advantage.

The previous Government tackled pensioner poverty with great rigour and success. How can we be assured that in changing the measures of pensioner poverty, the current Government are not simply trying to cover up a failure of their own policies? What assurances can the Minister give the House about the changes?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. The idea of measuring pensioner poverty in terms of material deprivation is supplementary to the income measures, and we will continue to publish both. I am sure he would accept that being just a penny or two above an arbitrary income level does not mean that people have a good standard of living if they are isolated or lonely. We aim to address all facets of pensioners’ quality of life.