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Pensioners

Volume 563: debated on Monday 20 May 2013

Even where we have had to take difficult decisions on welfare spending, we have systematically protected pensioners from the impacts of changes. Indeed, we have gone further: we have permanently increased the cold weather payment to £25, and the basic state pension is now a higher share of average earnings than at any time in the past 20 years.

Unlike the Opposition, we on this side of the House recognise that it is not right to increase basic state pensions by 75p: we give proper increases. What more is the Minister doing to ensure that retirement incomes continue to rise in the future?

As my hon. Friend knows, our goal is to have a retirement income based on the foundation of a simple, single, decent state pension—the legislation on this was announced in the Queen’s Speech—complemented by automatic enrolment into a workplace pension, so people have a pension based on their national insurance and a pension of their own with a contribution from both the employer and the taxpayer. That is a good combination to build on.

What does the Minister have to say to my constituent, a 91-year-old pensioner who is occupying a four-bedroom property and has been told that, because the priority has to be given to allocating smaller homes to people currently being hit by the bedroom tax, she has no immediate prospect of being housed in smaller, more suitable accommodation?

We expect social landlords to manage their housing stock effectively, and many social landlords have put in place schemes to enable older tenants to trade down, which many of them would want to do. If the right hon. Gentleman’s constituent is 91, I would think the housing association in question has had plenty of time to do something about that.

One of the barriers to pension planning is uncertainty. Does the Minister agree that auto-enrolment and the single-tier pension will give the certainty that both pensioners and the pension industry need?

My hon. Friend is right: we cannot build a building on an uneven foundation. That is why we had to get state pension reform right with a single, simple, predictable state pension. That makes private saving and automatic enrolment far more effective, and I am grateful for his support for that principle.