Liz Truss commits to triple lock on pensions during PMQs
Rishi Sunak is refusing to guarantee the pledge will stay in place as he looks for ways to fill the £40billion blackhole in public finances ready for the autumn statement on November 17.
The Express and Silver Voices have joined forces to launch a petition appealing to the Prime Minister to give pensioners the increase they were promised by the Conservatives at the last election.
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “The incessant merry-go-round over whether the triple lock promise will be honoured must be resolved quickly.
“It is unfair and disrespectful to millions of state pensioners. A mandate built on a promise is worthless if the promise is broken.
“As food and energy prices surge, the assurance of the triple lock is essential to maintain the health and well-being of senior citizens this winter.”
Downing Street acknowledged that uncertainty over whether the triple lock will be maintained is causing difficulty for pensioners.
Rishi Sunak is refusing to guarantee the pledge will stay in place
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As the Prime Minister said, decisions will be guided by the values of the Government and will be done with compassion.
“We do recognise that uncertainty is difficult for pensioners and other groups of people.
“That’s why the Prime Minister and the Chancellor believe it is right to take the time to work carefully and diligently to come up with proposals that will provide that certainty in the long term.
“Given the very challenging economic circumstances the country and indeed the world faces, it is right that we take that time so that we put in place measures that can last.”
Conservative MP Maria Caulfield, who warned last week she will vote against any attempt to change the lock, said: “The triple lock is something that this Government introduced to make sure pensioners get an increase each year that helps their pensions keep up with either wages or inflation.
“Given the PM confirmed this week that he is keeping to the Conservative 2019 manifesto, I am hopeful this will include keeping the triple lock which is vital for pensioners when inflation is so high.”
Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi kept up pressure for the triple lock to be maintained, warning pensioners cannot go out and earn extra cash to make ends meet.
He said: “Pensioners cannot add to their income by taking on more work and therefore we have to be clear in how we make sure we help the most vulnerable in our society including those pensioners but I won’t preempt the autumn statement.”
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt turned to George Osborne for help on making the upcoming autumn budget add up.
A Treasury source said Mr Hunt met Mr Osborne, the architect of austerity in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, in Downing Street on Thursday.
Meetings were also said to have been arranged with Kwasi Kwarteng, Mr Hunt’s predecessor whose mini-budget sparked the financial turmoil that forced Liz Truss from office.
Nadhim Zahawi has suggested state pension triple lock will be kept in place
The triple lock pegs state pension increases to the highest of 2.5 per cent, wages rises or inflation.
Inflation hit 10.1 per cent in September, the month traditionally used to work out next April’s rise.
Mr Sunak suspended the lock last year after a quirk caused by the covid crisis meant average earnings shot up. Instead, the state pension went up by 3.1 per cent.
At the time, the then Chancellor insisted the move was temporary and would last one year only.
The Conservative Party recommitted to the triple lock in the 2019 manifesto, stating: “We will keep the triple lock, the winter fuel payment, the older person’s bus pass and other pensioner benefits, ensuring that older people have the security and dignity they deserve.”
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt turned to ex-chancellor George Osborne for help on making the upcoming budget
Former pensions minister Baroness Altmann said the “on-again, off-again” approach is “not worthy of a sensible” Government.
She said: “Pensioners have trusted Government time and again that their inflation increases were safe. Yet apparently those assurances are in doubt once more. Pensioners’ mental health, as well as our welfare state are being undermined.
“The UK State Pension is just about the lowest in the developed world. Pensioners used to living frugally have already cut back on luxuries.
“It is wrong to force pensioners to bear the brunt of fiscal cutbacks. Of course there are some well-off pensioners, but they are not the majority.
“Indeed, many of the poorest pensioners are too proud to claim the means-tested help that is available and those just above the cut-off are also in dire straits.
“Just focussing on ‘the most vulnerable’ will exclude millions from help and the inflation increases must be paid to every pensioner as we try to reduce pensioner poverty and misery.”
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Morgan Vine, head of policy at Independent Age, said: “If the Government breaks its promise, and suspends the triple lock, it would again be a huge blow, particularly for the older people living on low and modest incomes.
“With more than 2 million pensioners already living in poverty and the cost-of-living crisis hitting hard, we know people are being forced to make impossible choices on how to cut back to be able to afford heating, electricity and food.
“Rocketing inflation of 10 per cent means the State Pension is already worth much less than it was last year. As prices soar, it is vital the government honours its repeated commitment to reinstate the triple lock from April next year. The triple lock is there to protect all of us. Scrapping it wouldn’t just harm those currently in retirement.”
When asked if Labour would commit to keeping the triple lock after the next general election, Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “We’ve certainly committed to fighting to defend the triple lock. I’m not sure where this government will land on the triple lock.
“It is another example of the Conservative party that seems willing to break its manifesto commitments.
“If the argument that the Conservatives is making is ‘the things we promised in our last manifesto can no longer be afforded because we crashed the economy’, I think they have a responsibility to go back to the voters and ask for permission for the plan they want to pursue in order to fix the damage they’ve done.”
Forecasters say temperatures are set to plunge bringing snow and freezing weather. As winter really starts to bite many older people face a heart-breaking dilemma: do they turn on their heating or buy food? With the price of both rocketing, it’s a bitter choice.
Contrary to much opinion, the majority of the UK’s 11 million pensioners are not well off – in fact most do not pay income tax because their income falls well below the threshold.
This situation is largely due to the state pension declining in real terms over the decades. In fact, there are two state pension schemes: one is worth £40 a week more than the other, but neither is a king’s ransom.
Could any of our Cabinet Ministers cope with living on £8k to £10K a year – because that is the reality for many pensioners? Not likely!
Incredibly, the government may not reinstate the triple lock which would at least give older people a pension rise that matches inflation, just as the energy price cap is due to end.
Meanwhile, Shell has just announced another record increase in profits. Yet the government seems reticent about taxing the profits of the energy companies at this time of national financial crisis.
Older people have contributed to their retirement and are not the source of the problems they face. The cost-of-living crisis is hitting them hard. Decisions about whether to put the heating on, cook a hot meal, pay your mortgage or rent, and other bills are a daily grind for everyone. But for older people they can be life threatening.
We have no doubt that we will see an increase in winter deaths later this year. We will also see a rise in malnutrition and poor health due to cold, damp homes and poorer diets.
If the triple lock is not reinstated, and older people don’t see a rise in 2023 that reflects the full rate of inflation, it will have repercussions not only for today’s pensioners, but also for those who retire in future. The triple lock rises are cumulative – but so are any losses in real terms, and the losses caused by its suspension in 2022 will never be recouped.
Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt must stop pontificating on the triple lock and give a firm commitment to the restoration of the full rate of inflation on next year’s pension rise. It should be quite easy to do, after all it is a Conservative Party manifesto promise.
- Jan Shortt is the General Secretary of the National Pensioners Convention
‘So many people in this country are reliant on state pension’
Roy Baldwin, an 86-year-old former copywriter from Dursley, Glos, has had enough of Government u-turns and believes the manifesto commitment to raise the triple lock in line with inflation should be kept.
He said: “I’ve always believed that the Government – whatever its colour – does what is best for the nation, but there have been so many changes of course and U-turns in policies over the last few weeks that I don’t really know what to expect now.
“Common sense tells me that the present Prime Minister and Chancellor have told us to expect hard times, and that is fair enough – we’ve been forewarned.
“But I do think they should keep to the promises they have already made. If they’re not very careful they will lose the faith of the nation.
“I feel a bit guarded, maybe apprehensive about the legitimacy of the present Government because of the triple lock.
“They need to focus on doing well for all the people. Not for the rich by cutting taxes for the best off in society, but for the working class people and show they can deliver on promises made. If they don’t, they’ll be out of office.
“If the polls are anything to go by, Labour has a big lead at the moment because people do not know what to expect from the Conservatives.
“I worked for 65 years in my career, and thankfully have a company pension. But I am very concerned, especially for those I know who don’t have any private savings and just rely on the state pension.
“So many people in this country are reliant on state benefits and the state pension, and so it does fill me with concern hearing about potential cuts or abandoned commitments.”
‘Honouring the triple lock was a manifesto promise’
Jean Hardiman Smith, 73, is irritated and upset all over again about the new speculation surrounding the triple lock pension guarantee.
“I feel that once again pensioners are being taken advantage of, that our challenges and issues are not taken seriously enough by the Government,” she said.
“Last year the triple lock was cut back to a double lock. Now after the triple lock increase with the rate of inflation was confirmed by Liz Truss only a week or so ago, her successor Rishi Sunak won’t get off the fence and reinforce that pledge.
“But honouring the triple lock was a manifesto promise and that money is needed by millions of pensioners on fixed incomes as inflation pushes up the prices of everything.”
The former lecturer suffers from Coeliac’s Disease and can’t afford much of the expensive gluten-free foods her diet demands on her £142 a week basic pension.
Dr Hardiman Smith, and her husband Kenneth, 68, a former computer consultant, are also struggling with soaring energy costs and rising food bills.
She retired at 60 and before April 2016 so she only qualifies for the ‘old’ state pension.
Meanwhile Mr Hardiman Smith receives the full ‘new’ state pension of £185 a week.
“That too is also confusing and unfair,” said Dr Hardiman Smith, speaking from the couple’s home near Chester, Cheshire.
“Kenneth didn’t work longer than me or pay more tax so why people who retire after a certain age get more money is confusing.
“That extra £43 would make a lot of difference to us.
“A gluten-free diet is expensive, bread is £3.50 a loaf, our energy bills are soaring as are lots of other living costs as inflation pushes the prices up.
“Older people have paid tax all their working lives and continue to pay tax into retirement, I do think it’s unfair to penalise the elderly with a two-tier pension system.”
The mother of one and grandma of four is the co-author of the National Pensioners Convention Goodbye Cinderella proposal for a National Care Service and chair of its Health and Care Working Party.
She called on the new Prime Minister and his Chancellor Jeremey Hunt to be fair to pensioners and raise the triple lock in line with inflation and say they are doing so immediately so the elderly can stop worrying.
“I recently heard that pawn shops are making a comeback because so many people are selling their possessions,” she said.
“That’s an awful way to live.”
‘I haven’t bought new clothes for years’
Mike Smith, 76, is a lifelong Conservative voter but he won’t be voting blue at the next election if the Government reneges on its promise to keep the triple lock.
“At the moment, I am just about keeping my head about water,” he said.
“I’m just about surviving, but if my energy bills go up by 50 per cent or more, I will have to decide between eating or turning my heating on.
“I still have a small amount of savings, but it’s not going to last long if I need a new boiler or something like that.
“As a lifelong Conservative supporter, I shall not be voting blue in any forthcoming elections. Although I don’t feel we have a proper opposition right now.
“I suspect Rishi Sunak has kept Jeremy Hunt in post because he will get rid of the triple-lock.”
Mr Smith lives off a reduced State pension with just £663 a month to pay his bills.
He lives alone in a one-bedroom flat in Cambridge and when it is very cold he stays in bed until midday in a bid to keep warm.
“I have a very good deal and my energy bill at the moment is £40 a month, but I’m very worried about this upcoming rise in the price cap which could see the direct debit double,” he said.
“I’m already very careful with what energy I use. I don’t turn the heating on until late afternoon.
“In fact, I’m careful with any spending. I haven’t bought new clothes for years, I buy from charity shops.
“Cambridge is very expensive, it’s all London price here. It’s a beautiful place to live but you can’t eat beauty.”
Mr Smith previously worked for King’s College, part of the University of Cambridge, but had to stop working in 1988 after contracting the ME virus.
He now receives a reduced State pension as a result of the lower National Insurance contributions he made.
He does qualify for some extra welfare support but new eligibility criteria means he has lost the help of a carer who came once a day.
“Everyone I know my age is worried about budgeting,” he said.