Fears the state pension could be means-tested in the future have grown after Ministers introduced new proposals which would enable the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to view state pension recipients’ bank accounts, an MP has claimed.
The new powers would allow the Government to inspect the bank accounts of anyone claiming a social security benefit, which includes pensioners getting the state pension, MPs debating the matter have warned.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Labour MP for East Ham and Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Sir Stephen Timms said: “It will give the Government the right to look into the bank account of every single one of us at some point during our lives, without suspecting that we have ever done anything wrong, and without telling us that they are doing it.”
Sir Stephen questioned why the Government would need access to state pension recipients’ bank accounts, adding: “The entitlement to the state pension is not based on income, savings or anything like that, so why would the Government ever wish to do that?”
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WATCH NOW: Stephen Timms warns new proposals mean DWP could check pensioners' bank accounts
Responding to Sir Chris Bryant, who also spoke during the debate, Culture Minister Sir John Whittingdale told the House of Commons: “The state pension will not currently be an area of focus for the use of these powers.”
He added: “This is specifically about ensuring that means-related benefit claimants are eligible for the benefits for which they are currently claiming. In doing that, the identification and the avoidance of fraud will save the taxpayer a considerable amount of money.”
Sharing a video of the debate on X, formerly known as Twitter, Sir Stephen appeared to signal fears the Government could potentially introduce means-testing to the state pension in the future, meaning it would be dependent on income rather than National Insurance years.
He wrote: “Ministers last week rushed an amendment through the Commons, allowing it to look into the bank account of everybody claiming State Pension.
“Their only reason was that it might be useful one day. The only change which could make it useful would be to means test the state pension.”
During the debate, Karl Turner, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East, pointed out there is already something called a production order, meaning there are already ways for the DWP to apply to look at bank accounts in the event of suspected benefit fraud.
He said: "If somebody was under investigation for benefit fraud, an application could be made before a court for the production of bank accounts.
"If it was a matter of suspected fraud, there is already a mechanism available."
The MPs were debating the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill at the report stage.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We are cracking down on fraud with new powers which will root out those who try to steal from the most vulnerable while saving the taxpayer £600 million over the next five years.
“We are targeting these efforts where fraud and error is higher such as Universal Credit.”
The DWP says there is no specific amendment to look at the bank accounts of those claiming the state pension. However, a House of Commons Library response, seen by GB News, confirms the amendment would give the power to look into the bank account of anyone claiming the state pension.
It's understood the Government does not have plans to means-test the state pension.