‘Labour’s track record on pensions is poor – they cannot be trusted,’ writes Robert Buckland

Keir Starmer

‘Labour’s track record on pensions is poor – they cannot be trusted,’ writes Robert Buckland

Oliver Trapnell

By Oliver Trapnell

Published: 06/05/2024

- 05:00

As the general election approaches, Labour is refusing to say anything about this vital issue

When I hear some of the criticism levelled at the Conservative Government about support for our pensioners, it does sound a bit like that line from Monty Python’s Life Of Brian “What have the Romans done for us?”

I well remember a time under Labour when the basic state pension continued to lag well behind the cost of living, and a year when Gordon Brown increased it by a measly 75 pence!

Instead of rising the tide and lifting many boats, Labour preferred a system of pension credits, which meant that many pensioners continued to live in poverty, either being unaware or unwilling to take them up as part of a means test.

Fuel poverty was rising at the end of the Labour years, and many older people felt left behind.

Elderly hands holding moneyThe triple lock pension pay out could be under threatPA

After 2010, things got dramatically better. Even in a time of tight public spending in the years after the Crash, pensioners were supported.

The introduction of the Pension Triple Lock, which means that pensions will never rise by less than 2.5 per cent in any year and which saw an 8.5 per cent rise in April this year, has helped lift 200,000 pensioners out of poverty.

Since 2010, the annual amount of the Basic State Pension has risen by £3,376.

Meanwhile, the Winter Fuel Payment system has continued to support millions of people, with twelve million payments and Pensioner Cost of Living Payments totalling £4.8billion across the UK, providing vulnerable households with up to £600 to help with energy bills in the winter just gone.

The Department for Work & PensionsThe Department for Work & PensionsPA

This Government also reformed and simplified the Basic State Pension, where women in particular were put at a disadvantage, meaning that by 2030, over three million women will gain an average of £550 per year.

It’s not just about today’s pensioners either. The Conservatives introduced and expanded automatic pension enrolment, which has meant that 88 per cent of eligible employees - 20 million people - now have a workplace pension, with an additional £33billion saved in real terms in 2021 compared to a decade earlier.

Contrast this with a fall in employee membership of employer-sponsored pensions from 46 per cent to 34 per cent between 1997 and 2010.

There are some big challenges ahead, but with record investment in the NHS and hard work from our doctors and nurses, those Covid backlogs are coming down and over 2.5 million extra GP appointments per month are being made available, which is vital for older people in order to help prevent more minor ailments becoming something more serious.

One area, however, where the parties need to step up more is social care.

Whilst an extra £8.6billion is being provided by the Government to support social care provision in the coming year, older people and their families rightly worry about the cost of care and its impact on their finances.

As they approach an election that they are desperate to win, in line with their general approach to policy, Labour is refusing to say anything about this vital issue.

We must look to Labour’s socialist instincts, therefore, which are to increase taxes and to try and create a nationalised system that will not reward those who have saved and built up assets during their lives.

As thoughts turn to the Conservative Manifesto, I believe that we should be rewarding and incentivising via the tax system the tens of thousands of people and families who are doing the right thing, by funding domiciliary or residential care themselves.

We should also act to protect people’s homes from confiscation, which is not something that we can ever expect a high tax, high spend Labour Government to ever want to do.

Labour politicians think we have short memories, but people are smarter than that.

We cannot afford to go back to a time when pensioners were marginalised and when more of them were living in poverty.

Labour’s track record is poor, and they cannot be trusted.

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