Oral Answers to Questions — Pensioner Poverty

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2 April 2001.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling Secretary of State for Social Security 12:00, 2 April 2001

My hon. Friend is right: even this afternoon, the Conservatives have reminded us that they regard such measures as "window dressing" or gimmicks.

The fact is that 11 million winter fuel payments have been made this year. The payment has proved immensely popular, which is presumably why the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts), the Conservative spokesman on social security, had to revise his policy sharply. He is now in the unhappy position of finding that the pensions policy that he announced last May is in tatters, and instead is offering us a bureaucratic nightmare that would require every pensioner household to seek an accountant's advice before deciding whether to take the winter fuel payment in cash or to have it consolidated.

We have made it clear that eradicating pensioner poverty, and dealing with pensioner fuel poverty, is of the utmost importance. That is why we introduced the winter fuel payment. I think people are pretty clear about what the Tories really think of the payment, and what would happen to it if they were returned to power.