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Cost of Living Crisis: Support for Pensioners

Volume 721: debated on Monday 31 October 2022

This winter more than 8 million pensioner households will receive an increased winter fuel payment; in addition, those eligible for pension credit will receive an extra £650. This Government will always support the most vulnerable.

Earlier this month I contacted approximately 6,000 people in my constituency who may have been eligible for pension credit, and about 200 people attended a local action day organised with my local citizens advice bureaux. Citizens Advice informs me that as of last week at least £200,000 has been accessed in take-up of pension credit and other benefits as a result of contacts on that day. So far the Department’s action has been limited and half-hearted; the Government should put their money where their mouth is and pay pensioners what they are entitled to. With the information and data the Government have at their disposal, what further action will they take to increase pension credit take-up?

I applaud the hon. Gentleman for the work he is doing in his constituency. This is an incredibly important matter; seven out of 10 people who are entitled to pension credit claim it and we want to drive that rate up. My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) has done a huge amount of work on this and I intend to continue that in the Department.

Irresponsible Conservative policies have meant pension funds needed three emergency bail-outs to the tune of billions of pounds, while the spiralling prices of energy, food and other essential items have meant millions of people will be facing a very difficult winter. Statistics from earlier this year, before the cost of living crisis worsened even further, showed that 20%, or well over 2 million, pensioners already lived in poverty, a dramatic increase from a decade ago. Why should pensioners trust this Government to help them through this mess when the reckless behaviour of Conservative Ministers has worsened their plight?

I point the hon. Gentleman to our record: absolute pensioner poverty has gone down; real incomes have gone up. This Government are on the side of pensioners.

I welcome my hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box and I welcome the work that the Government are doing to support pensioners, particularly on winter fuel costs in difficult times. However, many of my pensioners in Aldridge-Brownhills are anxious about the continuous rise in the cost of living. When can we have some clarity regarding the triple lock?

I completely understand my right hon. Friend’s question. However, that is a matter for the autumn statement, and I would not want to pre-empt that.

I welcome the new Minister to her place. The last few weeks have been difficult and, at times, chaotic. The Government have crashed the economy and there has been a revolving door in Downing Street and Government Departments. After all that confusion, will the Minister take the opportunity to reassure the House that the Government are truly committed to the triple lock? Will she apologise to pensioners for the stress and uncertainty that the Government have caused through their repeated attempts to wriggle out of their manifesto commitment?

I do understand the uncertainty, but we must wait for 17 November. However, the average state pension is £185 a week, which is about double what it was in 2010 when we took over.