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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:50 am on 23rd February 2010.

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Photo of Andrew Pelling Andrew Pelling Independent, Croydon Central 9:50 am, 23rd February 2010

It is a great pleasure, Mr. Gale, to serve under your chairmanship.

I would very much like to congratulate Jo Swinson, who has secured a number of important debates on social issues in Westminster Hall and the main Chamber. I would also like to place on record my thanks to Michael Knight of Croydon Retired Peoples Campaign-a group that I will address next week at Ruskin house-and Malcolm Felberg, who chairs the Croydon local involvement network. Both of them have made a significant input regarding our concerns in Croydon about the situation for the elderly, particularly those in pensioner poverty, and the approach that we must take to address those concerns.

We should place on record, however, the very good work that the Government have done in taking more than a million pensioners out of poverty, albeit against a background of significant deterioration in income and equality generally within society since 1997. As the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire said, the basic state pension of £95 a week is still-horrendously-below the official poverty measure of £165 a week. That particularly affects female pensioners, who tend to live longer than their spouses. They are especially affected if they have operated as single parents for a good deal of their working lives.

I am also interested in the experience that pensioners have when they encounter the NHS. The way in which ill health is treated can often have a very real effect on pensioners' income and wealth status. I am particularly exercised by the effect on people's standard of living when they have a fall on icy or uncleared pavements, and was pleased by the response from Lord Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport, to the problem. In my local Mayday hospital, the number of fractures went up by a factor of five when pavements remained uncleared. There may well be a very good argument for moneys in the NHS being spent on clearing pavements, as they have been-I know that this is controversial-in Durham, because doing so has a substantial effect.