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Pensioner Poverty

Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 11 November 2009

1. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on steps to address pensioner poverty in Wales. (298039)

Government policies since 1997 have significantly reduced pensioner poverty in Wales, and across the United Kingdom. Working closely with the Welsh Assembly Government, our policies will continue to reduce pensioner poverty and promote dignity in later life.

I found living on the basic state pension just for one week, last week, extremely difficult. According to AXA research, 64 per cent. of people expect to rely on the state pension entirely for their retirement, which will result in double the number of pensioners in Wales living in poverty by 2033. Will the Minister work with his colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Welsh Assembly Government to raise the state pension to lift 200,000 people out of poverty in Wales?

With all due respect, what the hon. Lady has to remember is the tremendous amount of work that has been done by this Government to raise pensioners out of poverty and to help the poorest pensioners. Incidentally, I read the article in The Western Mail that includes quotations from her, and I must tell her that the poorest pensioners are not on £95 a week. Not one pensioner is on less than £130 a week. In addition, they get free prescriptions for drugs and free eye tests, there are free TV licences for the over-75s and there is free bus travel and dentistry for the over-60s. A lot of work is being done, and that good work will continue.

I am sure that many of the pensioners in need in Wales will have worked a lifetime in heavy industry, and at this stage in their lives, when they need money, they would welcome the sort of compensation for pleural plaques that those in Scotland and Northern Ireland will receive. Will the Minister make representations to other Whitehall Departments to ensure that this anomaly is kicked out?

I hear what my hon. Friend is saying, and of course, I recognise what terrible diseases pleural plaques represent; constituents of mine have suffered from them. He can be certain that the Government will do everything legally possible to help those people.