HC Deb 07 July 2003 vol 408 cc736-7
3. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

What the current level of the basic state pension would be for a couple if the system used for uprating from 1980 to 1997 had been continued. [123521]

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith)

The basic state pension for a couple would have been £440 less this year if we had stuck to the pre-1997 formula—£115.30 a week, rather than £123.80. We have guaranteed that, for the remainder of this Parliament, we will increase the basic state pension by 2.5 per cent. or the September retail prices index, whichever is higher. So pensioners will continue to do better under our Government that they did under the Conservative party.

Paul Flynn

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does it not prove that the various non-means-tested increases that the Government have introduced since 1997 have given pensioners a fair deal—the increases have been at least equivalent to the level that would have existed had the link between pensions and earnings been restored. Is not that a wonderful example? Are not the Government entitled to give themselves a slap on the back for being far fairer with pensioners than what happened during the 17 years of effective cuts, every year, by the mean-spirited, tight-fisted Tories?

Mr. Smith

Yes, and the lesson that the public must learn is: never let them take it away.

Sir Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the recent Government response to the Green Paper is the Government's last word on uprating and other matters for the foreseeable future? Does he acknowledge the continuing concern about the relationship between the current architecture of state pensions provision and the private sector, particularly in regard to the possible disincentives to save? Will he consider extending Mr. Adair Turner's remit in the pension commission, so that he may continue to study that important problem?

Mr. Smith

Of course I studied carefully and responded to the very helpful report of the hon. Gentleman's Select Committee on those matters, including the suggestion that there ought to be more research about the interaction between the structure of the state system and levels of private and occupational pension saving, which, as he will know, is by no means a simple and straightforward matter. The terms of reference of Adair Turner's commission are very clear; they have been reported to Parliament, and I do not intend to change them, but they include provision for the commission to examine the effects of the state structure on private and occupational pension saving, so far as they are relevant.