HC Deb 29 November 1999 vol 340 cc15-6
11. Mr. David Crausby (Bolton, North-East)

If he will make a statement on his policy on the link between pensions and increases in pay. [99071]

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Mr. Jeff Rooker)

Our policy, which was set out in the manifesto, is that the basic state pension should be uprated at least in line with prices. The poorest current pensioners will, of course, benefit from the recently announced increase of 4.6 per cent. to the minimum income guarantee. In the longer term, pensioners will benefit from the state second pension, legislation for which we shall shortly introduce. I can also announce that a consultation document on the contracting-out aspects of the state second pension will be published later today. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Mr. Crausby

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. The Conservatives broke the link between pensions and pay. I accept that the Government cannot cure overnight the problems associated with 18 years of the previous Government, but does he agree that pensions received by the elderly are not charitable donations from the Government, but are earned as a result of the national insurance contributions that they paid throughout their life, which increased as their wages increased? Is it not morally right that pensions should increase as wages increase?

Mr. Rooker

My hon. Friend is quite right about national insurance contributions, but let us not beat about the bush. The basic state pension has never provided an adequate income on which to live, whether people have been fully paid up or not. I remind him that in the first three years of this Parliament pensioners as a group have received, via the winter fuel discount, which is not means-tested, and the minimum income guarantee, which is means-tested, £800 million more than they would have received if the basic state pension had been increased in line with earnings.

Mr. David Prior (North Norfolk)

Does the Minister agree that his policies will increase the number of pensioners receiving means-tested benefits?

Mr. Rooker

No, I do not accept that.