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Fairness and Security in Old Age

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:14 pm on 10th September 2003.

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Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister for pensions, Department for Work and Pensions 1:14 pm, 10th September 2003

The hon. Gentleman clearly stands by his comments, since he judges them to be perceptive. I am glad that someone does.

If we follow the hon. Gentleman's advice and spend all our pension credit money on increasing the basic state pension, we could increase the maximum rate from £77.45 to approximately £90. However, that would mean losses of around £30 a week for households that receive pension credit. The Liberal Democrats need to explain that to older and poorer people: if the Government foolishly followed their advice, the poorest would be denied £30 or more a week.

Although I do not agree with the Liberal Democrats' approach, I at least respect it and understand their position. However, it is curious to compare their opposition to pension credit with their comments in the Brent, East by-election campaign. I have a piece of paper which is so interesting that I shall subscribe to future editions. It is called "Focus on Pensions" and discusses pension credit. Since we are considering "honourable gentlemen" in the House and outside, I assumed that the headline might read "Scrap Pension Credit" or possibly "Take Away £30 from the Poorest Pensioners". However, it is: "Are You Missing Out?" The article states that "local Lib Dem"—they call themselves Lib Dems—campaigner Sarah Teather

"has launched a major campaign to urge all local pensioners to apply for the new Pension Credit".

She said:

"I want to make sure that all pensioners in our area who are entitled to the new Pension Credit actually claim it."

Once again, we understand that being a Liberal Democrat means never having to be consistent. What hypocrisy! I hope that the hon. Member for Northavon or his colleagues will say whether they are for or against the pension credit, and whether they would back or scrap it. Answer came there none. Liberal Democrat Members opposed the pension credit in Parliament, campaigned for its success at the hustings and soon they will doubtless claim that they thought of it.