Liz Truss is no longer standing by her commitment to increase state pensions in line with soaring inflation as her imperilled leadership is overhauled by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
Downing Street indicated ministers could ditch their commitment to the triple lock as the new Chancellor brought in to save her ailing leadership searches to plug a multi-billion pound black hole.
Mr Hunt told colleagues at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that they must find savings from their departmental budgets.
As recently as October 2 Ms Truss was clear state pensions would increase in April by whichever is highest – 2.5%, wages or inflation.
“I’ve committed to the triple lock. Yes,” she said in a BBC interview.
But, after replacing Kwasi Kwarteng in the Treasury after their disastrous mini-budget, Downing Street backed down on this pledge.
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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are very aware of how many vulnerable pensioners there are and indeed our priority ahead of this fiscal plan is we continue to protect the most vulnerable in society.
“The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are not making any commitments on individual policy areas at this point, but as I say the decisions will be made through the prism of what matters most to the most vulnerable.”
Moving to review the pledge was a “mutual decision” by Ms Truss and Mr Hunt, according to the official, who denied that the Prime Minister had been pressured into it by her new Chancellor.
The spokesman stood by the commitment of increasing defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2030.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Tory MPs have already imposed this year the biggest real-terms pension cut ever for Britain’s retirees and their disastrous budget has them considering further cuts to pensioners’ incomes.
“Pensioners deserve so much better than Liz Truss and her disastrous mistakes that are leaving older people paying the price.”
The Liberal Democrats’ pensions spokeswoman Wendy Chamberlain added: “It would be a kick in the teeth for millions of people if Truss now backtracks on her triple lock promise. The British public will never forgive the Conservative Party if they break this promise.”
In the Commons on Monday, Mr Hunt did not rule out the triple lock being suspended as he refused to make any commitments on “individual policy areas”.
Around 12.5 million people who receive the state pension could be dealt a real-terms cut in earnings if their payments do not rise in line with inflation, standing at around 10%.
On Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics will publish the Consumer Price Index measure of inflation, on which changes to benefits and pension payments are calculated.