[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair] — Pensioner Poverty

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:00 am on 23rd February 2010.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 10:00 am, 23rd February 2010

I welcome that and the fact that the Government recognise the huge problem, in particular the problem of broken careers among women, which usually occur because they have children and stay at home to bring them up. We must recognise that there is a big improvement on the way and I welcome that.

The other area of enormous pensioner poverty is among ethnic minority people. The number of ethnic minority pensioners is small, but it will rise rapidly over the next 10 or 20 years. We are all aware of that from our constituency work. The proportion of ethnic minority elderly people who are in great poverty is much higher than for any other group. They make up only 3 per cent. of people above state pension age, but they are often in considerable poverty because of discrimination in the workplace, for example in promotions and the inability to get a permanent job, particularly, in the past, one that had a pension attached to it. That is another pocket of high levels of poverty that we must recognise and do something about.

I will be brief, Mr. Gale, because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. I just want to mention other areas of support for pensioner households that tend, unfortunately, to be patchy and sporadic. The travel permit and travel pass systems are welcome if pensioners get free travel on all public transport. London paved the way with the Greater London council bus pass, which was introduced in the early 1970s. That morphed into the freedom pass, which is now universally available across London, and I welcome that. The Government have done a great deal to extend the concept of supported or free bus and rail travel across the country. We must recognise that these are important things and that in this time of recession and pressure on Government spending, they should not even be considered for a cut, but should be fully supported because they provide freedom of movement.