HC Deb 19 November 1990 vol 181 cc8-9
10. Mr. Moss

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proportion of pensioners make mortgage repayments; and how much of next April's rise in the basic state pension is attributable to rising interest and mortgage rates in the 12 months to September of the current year

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

As my hon. Friend will be aware, the retirement pension will be increased by 10.9 per cent. from April 1991, once again honouring the Government's commitment to protect fully the value of the state pension against changing prices. The corresponding September figure for the retail prices index less mortgage interest payments was 9.5 per cent. The latest information shows that, in 1987, 49 per cent. of pensioners owned their own homes and 4 per cent. made mortgage repayments

Mr. Moss

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she agree that the figures show that about 15 per cent. of this year's substantial increase in the pension reflects rising mortgage costs—an expense which fewer than one in 20 pensioners have to pay? Does not that represent a tremendous bonus for the majority of pensioners in this country?

Mrs. Shephard

Yes, and I am delighted that it should be so

Mr. Meacher

As rising interest and mortgage rates are a reflection of the Government's economic incompetence and have caused misery to millions, is not it brass neck for the Minister to try to make a virtue out of it by claiming credit for a bigger pension increase, which the Government did their utmost to avoid? If the Government are so solicitous about the welfare of pensioners, why have they blocked a bigger pension rise for pensioners in each of the past 11 years by breaking the uprating link with earnings? Is not it hypocrisy for the Government to try to feed that sort of soft question to Tory Back Benchers so that they can pretend that the Government are generous when, in fact, the Government have taken £22 billion off pensioners by breaking the earnings link?

Mrs. Shephard

Conservatives need no lessons in economic competence from the hon. Gentleman. I know that he fully understands that the Government have a dual policy on pensions—fully to uprate the basic pension in line with prices, which his Government were unable to do during their period in office, and to pursue other policies that Opposition Members steadfastly oppose, such as to increase choice in pension provision. It is not the Conservative party which wishes to turn personal pensions on their head.

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