“(1) The Secretary of State must, no later than 6 months after the date on which this Act is passed, lay before Parliament a report containing an assessment of the impact of this Act on levels of poverty among pensioners in—
(b) Wales, and
(c) England.”—(David Linden.)
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament an assessment of the impact of the uprating next year by price inflation instead of earnings growth on levels of pensioner poverty in Scotland, Wales and England (the Bill does not extend to Northern Ireland).
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time. I know that the hon. Members who suspended proxy voting and brought back in-person voting will be very keen to vote tonight, so I would like to divide the Committee on the new clause, which stands in my name and in that of my hon. Friends.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
As we start this debate on Third Reading, I want to reflect on what we have discussed so far in this important piece of legislation. The House has considered a number of issues relating to the Bill, and we will soon pass it over to the other place. Before we do so, we still have an opportunity to improve the legislation and to stand up for the interests of pensioners. Even at this late stage, I would like to ask the Government to consider a series of sensible, helpful points made from across the House. Taken together, these measures could make a substantial difference to the Bill.
The Government are breaking a manifesto promise. Parties across the House supported the triple lock in their manifestos in 2019, and this is a question of trust. Breaking their promise on the triple lock is the third time the Government have broken a manifesto commitment in just a few weeks. Trust in this Government has fallen dramatically, and I am afraid to say that their reputation is in tatters. We understand the difficult situation with the anomaly in earnings. However, it is down to the Government to find a way to protect the triple lock and deal with the anomaly in the earnings data.
We have asked Ministers to take a few simple steps to address the issue. First, we have asked them to be honest about the data showing a temporary increase in earnings. Secondly, we have asked them to find a way to address it while maintaining the earnings link. We have suggested using an average rising earnings over a longer period of time. Thirdly, if the Government are to address the anomaly, will they report back on the impact on pensioners’ incomes and take a real interest in the difficulties faced by millions of pensioners on low incomes? Those are all sensible measures that should be part of the good governance of this country.
We have discussed this issue in some detail today, and the Government must be clearer with pensioners. However, there is no need to take it further today and we would not want to divide the House on Third Reading. I remind Conservative Members that trust in the Government is wearing very thin, so let us hope that they will now listen to the House and to the public and show that they are concerned about such important matters.
I have already outlined my view of the Bill on Second Reading. I am disappointed that the Government chose to reject our new clause 2 in Committee, but in the interests of brevity I will not go over old ground, not least because I am conscious that we have more legislation to consider this evening.
As is customary, I want to thank all hon. and right hon. Members for the good-natured if robust debate that we have had during proceedings on the Bill. I also want to thank and pay tribute to the ever helpful Clerk of Legislation for their support and advice to me and our lead researcher on the Bill, Zoe Carre, who will be leaving Westminster for pastures new next month. I hope you will indulge me for a moment, Madam Deputy Speaker, when I say that Zoe has been a pleasure to work with on the inclusion and wellbeing team and will be sorely missed by all of us in the SNP group in this place.
By passing this Bill unamended tonight, the House will be agreeing with the very legislation that allows the Government to break their promise to our constituents that there would be a triple lock on pensions. The SNP will continue to stand firm against this Tory Government’s attack on the pensions triple lock, because we believe that an adequate state pension is essential to ensuring dignity and fairness in retirement. It is clear that the British Government will continue to ride roughshod over our pensioners and that the only way to protect Scotland’s pensioners from more Tory austerity is with the full powers of independence. I look forward to making that case during the upcoming referendum, which we all know is on the horizon. I just wonder whether those in the no campaign will be as misleading this time when it comes to pensions, because if they are, they will need plenty of polish for their brass necks.
I want to put on record my thanks to my private office and the policy teams at the Department for Work and Pensions. I also want to make it very clear that this is a one-year Bill, by reason of the pandemic, and that the triple lock will resume after the Bill’s duration. We increased the state pension by 2.5% last year and we will increase it by 2.5% on prices this year. We spend £129 billion on pensioners—that is £105 billion on the state pension and £24 billion on the top-up benefits—and this Government will continue to support pensioners now and on an ongoing basis. I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.