HC Deb 26 January 1998 vol 305 cc1-2
1. Mr. Keith Simpson

What plans she has to link state pensions to whichever of prices or earnings is rising faster. [23052]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. John Denham)

The future uprating of the basic pension is being considered by the pensions review. In the meantime, we have met our manifesto commitment to uprate it at least in line with prices.

Mr. Simpson

Many of my hon. Friends will recall that during the general election campaign, we often sat with Labour candidates who made all kinds of promises on pensions. Does not the Minister feel humbled in the face of the fact that the Government have been unable to live up to the promises made on many platforms? Once again, pensioners and future pensioners realise that their pensions are not safe with a Labour Government.

Mr. Denham

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. I am immensely proud of the Government's unprecedented action to deliver £200 million of winter fuel payments to all pensioner households.

Mr. Hutton

Does my hon. Friend accept that the Government need to prioritise the case of the 1 million pensioners who are entitled to receive income support but who, for one reason or another, do not claim? What measures will the Government take to provide additional assistance to that vulnerable and important group?

Mr. Denham

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. The Government have made it clear that the poorest pensioners, including those who do not receive the income support to which they are entitled, will be our priority. That is why we have already initiated research into why pensioners do not claim that support. From April, we shall initiate a series of pilots to determine the best ways in which to get help to those pensioners.

Mr. Quentin Davies

Is the Minister aware that there is unprecedented anxiety among millions of old-age pensioners and those who are looking forward to receiving their pensions in a few years' time on the basis of their many years of national insurance contributions? Will he address that great concern and give us an unqualified assurance that the Government will not means-test the basic old-age pension and will continue to index it?

Mr. Denham

There is no question of the Government's not honouring our manifesto commitment to uprate the basic state pension at least in line with prices. We have already met that commitment.