HC Deb 28 January 1997 vol 289 cc147-8
12. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what new proposals he has to increase the level of the basic pension. [11380]

Mr. Lilley

The basic pension will be uprated by 2.1 per cent. from April, giving a standard rate pension of nearly £100 for a couple.

Mr. Banks

Is the Secretary of State aware that the British pensioner is treated worse than almost any other pensioner in the whole of the European Union in terms of basic pension rights? The Government have betrayed the British pensioners. Those who suffered and sacrificed during the last war have been betrayed by the Conservative Government. By breaking the link between pensions and wages, the Government have let the pensioners down and by gambling state earnings-related pension scheme money away on the stock market they have also let down the pensioners of tomorrow. The pensioners of this country will never forgive the Government.

Mr. Lilley

The hon. Member is mistaken. I advise him to read the report by Watsons which showed that, because we have a flat-rate basic pension, those who have low pay during their working lives are—with the benefit of the basic pension plus other support—at least as well off as, and usually better off than, pensioners in most other countries in Europe. Because of our success in building up occupational pensions, those with average earnings also do as well as or better than their counterparts. Uprating the basic pension in line with earnings rather than prices would cost £7.5 billion a year, which is why we have repudiated it—as, I believe, have Opposition Front Benchers recently, at whom the hon. Gentleman's ire might be well directed.