Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

Labour ducks triple lock support again as petition tops 142,000

Labour refuses to guarantee triple lock for pensions

The Daily Express Crusade to protect the pensions triple lock has seen a dramatic surge in support. More than 142,000 people have now signed a petition calling on ministers to honour the commitment.

Numbers more than trebled yesterday in an overwhelming signal that protecting the guarantee for older people is vital.

The groundswell of support was welcomed by campaigner Dennis Reed who organised the petition. Mr Reed, director of Silver Voices, said: “We have given it a push and people have responded.”

The huge backing came as Labour again refused to commit to the continuation of the triple lock, creating fresh uncertainty for millions of pensioners.

Policy chief Pat McFadden admitted the party would need to look at the “state of the economy” before making the key decision ahead of next year’s general election.

READ MORE Senior Peer warns the government to protect triple lock ahead of election

Last week his leader, Sir Keir Starmer, dodged calls to back the pledge, saying only that there would be a “fair and decent pension” if he becomes premier.

The Tories and PM Rishi Sunak are also refusing to commit to including the triple lock in their election manifesto.

Laura Kuenssberg, on her BBC Sunday morning politics show, pointed out that Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner had also refused to commit to keep the triple lock in place. She asked Mr McFadden: “Will the triple lock be in the Labour manifesto?”

Hinting that moves to retain it could now be reconsidered, he said: “The triple lock has raised pensions quite a lot in the last decade or so.

“All of these big-ticket items are going to depend on the state of the economy at the time. And the manifesto will take that into account when the election comes, probably in a year’s time.”

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Mr McFadden said Labour were committed to the triple lock in this parliament, suggesting they would vote against the Government if they tried to change the formula this year.

Mr Reed said: “At least the influential Mr McFadden confirmed that Labour would be supporting the triple lock this year and we will hold them to that if the Government tries to tamper with the formula. We can resume our battles on the contents of the 2024 manifestos once this year is settled.

“Labour’s promise for this year leaves the Government isolated on this vital safeguard for older people and we urge Mr Sunak to stop dithering and put pensioners struggling with the cost-of-living crisis out of their state of acute anxiety over the future of the triple lock.”

The triple lock was brought in by David Cameron’s Conservative government in 2010 after Labour had opposed it under Gordon Brown.

The lock pegs increases to either 2.5 percent, wage rises or inflation – whichever is highest. Pensioners would be handed an 8.5 percent increase if the calculation is carried out in the way it has been since the lock was introduced.

But now the Government is looking at saving hundreds of millions of pounds by stripping out public sector bonuses from the calculation to bring wage rises down to 7.8 percent. Bonuses have been included in the formula since the start.

An 8.5 percent rise in the full new state pension would take it from around £204 per week to £221. The smaller rise of 7.8 percent would make it around £220. This works out at around £75 per year.

Mr Sunak suspended the formula two years ago after a quirk caused by the Covid crisis meant average earnings shot up. Instead, the state pension went up by just 3.1 percent.

But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt listened to the 330,000 people who signed our petition last year to demand the lock be maintained.

Calculations for next year will be made in the next few weeks with final confirmation likely to come in the Autumn Statement in November.

Some senior Conservatives have called for the pledge to be ditched, arguing it is unsustainable, including former Tory leader William Hague. SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has warned pensioners were “being hammered by the Westminster cost-of-living crisis – with energy and food bills soaring”.

He challenged Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to “come clean over whether Labour is secretly planning to scrap the triple lock.”.

In a letter to him, Mr Flynn wrote: “Westminster is threatening to scrap the state pension triple lock. That much is crystal clear after the events of the last week.

“Sadly, this threat isn’t just coming from the current Tory Government, it is equally coming from your London bosses in Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. I questioned the Prime Minister on his party’s commitment to maintaining the state pension triple lock beyond the next general election.

“He blatantly and deliberately refused to give that guarantee. What’s worse though, the Labour Party leadership – including Sir Keir Starmer – have also stubbornly refused to commit to the future of the triple lock.

“Instead of giving clear answers, Tory and Labour politicians have been dodging the issue all week.

“Those non-answers and that cowardly lack of clarity and commitment is causing deep and real concern for millions of pensioners. Pensioners on fixed incomes need certainty in their finances.

“But by threatening the triple lock, that certainty is exactly what both the Labour and Tory parties are failing to give.”

That failure came on top of the UK already having one of the lowest state pensions in countries belonging to the OECD group of wealthy nations, he said.

Mr Flynn added: “During the course of this summer, you have quickly fallen into line when Sir Keir Starmer has decided to copy cruel Tory policies.

“The public will not forgive Labour if it takes an axe to the triple lock.

“It’s time to come clean over whether the Labour Party is secretly planning to scrap the triple lock and impose real-terms cuts to Scottish pensions.”

Deputy leader of Scottish Labour Jackie Baillie said: “This is a pathetic and desperate intervention from a party with nothing to offer the people of Scotland.

“The SNP’s pipe-dream plans for independence would devastate the pensions of millions of Scots.

“No amount of leaflets delivered by workers on exploitative zero-hours contracts will convince the people of Scotland that the SNP is anything but a busted flush.”

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