asked Her Majesty's Government:
What consideration they have given to the financial hardship of older people, including elderly war pensioners and war widows, as documented by the Royal British Legion in the Return to Rationing campaign documents; and what action they will take in response. [HL5323]
Addressing pensioner poverty has been one of the Government's key priorities since 1997 and we are aware of the recent campaign by the Royal British Legion.
The number of pensioners in poverty in the UK has fallen from 2.9 million in 1998-99 to 2.1 million in 2006-07 (as measured by 60 per cent of contemporary median income after housing costs). Once housing costs are accounted for, pensioners are less likely to be in poverty than the population as a whole.
The Government have introduced a number of measures to reduce the levels of poverty in older people. Pension credit ensures that no one needs live on less than £124.05 (£189.35 for a couple) per week. We have successively raised the standard minimum guarantee in pension credit at least in line with earnings every year since its introduction. Our commitments in the Pensions Act 2007 to continue to uprate the pension credit standard minimum guarantee at least in line with earnings over the long term, and to reintroduce the earnings link to basic state pension from 2012, or by the end of the next Parliament, will help secure these gains into the future.
On 11 September, the Government announced a new £1 billion package of measures for people permanently to cut their energy bills. As part of this package, 11 million lower income and pensioner households are eligible for free loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and other energy efficiency devices. The Government already make winter fuel payments which provide a significant contribution towards winter fuel bills for those aged 60 or over. Additional payments to be made for winter 2008-09 mean that this year households with someone aged 60 to 79 or over 80 will receive up to £250 and £400 respectively.