Pensioner Poverty: State Pension

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 13th December 2021.

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Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Labour, Kingston upon Hull East

What recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the state pension in tackling pensioner poverty; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

What recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the state pension in tackling pensioner poverty; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Let me take this opportunity to welcome the newcomers to the Opposition Front Bench.

The state pension is the foundation of support for older people and, under this Government, the full yearly amount of the basic state pension will be more than £2,300 higher in April than in 2010. The latest figures show that 200,000 fewer pensioners are in absolute poverty compared with 2009-10.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Labour, Kingston upon Hull East

Fred from east Hull was left without any income whatsoever for several months earlier this year because the Department for Work and Pensions failed to pay him his state pension, to which he was rightfully entitled. When my office intervened, he eventually got paid, but it took us several weeks to sort it out. When people such as Fred in areas like mine are already facing a cost of living crisis, fuel poverty and the effects of the pandemic, does the Minister feel that he should apologise to Fred and many others?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I cannot comment on the individual case, but I can say that the hon. Gentleman is right to say that there was a backlog over the summer period by reason of covid and many other factors, which we took great steps to address. A dedicated team of several hundred individuals ensured that we caught up with the backlog, and we are now operating business as usual.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

With winter biting and energy companies going to the wall, approximately 13.2% of households in Ealing Central and Acton are in fuel poverty—that is 6,864 pensioners struggling to heat their homes. Will the Minister agree with Labour and cut VAT on household heating bills during these winter months? The Conservatives have pilfered enough of our manifesto before; they could do this and make a real difference to pensioners.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The hon. Lady will be aware that we spend £2 billion on the winter fuel payments. There is also the cold weather payments fund, the household support fund, and the pension credit energy rebate. There are a whole host of ways in which support can be found for her constituents.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

I know my right hon. and hon. Friends in the ministerial team are doing their best, but is there any encouragement they can give, perhaps in conjunction with the Treasury, to the women of the Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign who lost out on the state pension start age?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

With respect to my right hon. Friend, that matter has been decided in the courts on two occasions—in the High Court and in the Court of Appeal—and it is not proposed to change the policy.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions)

The Government have consistently failed to stand up for the interests of pensioners on modest incomes. Food prices are up, gas prices are up and electricity prices are up. The cost of living is going up. Yet despite this, the Government are refusing to cut VAT on fuel, even though they have had higher than expected VAT receipts from across the economy, which would allow them to do exactly that and offer much-needed help to pensioners. To make matters worse, the Government are also failing to increase the take-up of pension credit. When will they finally start offering real help to our pensioners?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

That is a bit rich. When the last Labour Government were in power, the state pension was under £100; it is now going up to £185 going forward. It is almost double what it was before thanks to the triple lock introduced by this Government and the coalition Government. It is also very much the case that pension credit take-up is actually going up, not down. Over the two years of the pandemic, both the basic and new state pension will have increased by more than prices thanks to the cumulative effects of the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Act 2020 and the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Act 2021.