Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

No betrayal, Mr Sunak! Join our fight to protect the pension triple lock

The fight for the triple lock on state pensions begins today with a Daily Express crusade calling on the Prime Minister not to ‘betray the nation’s pensioners.’

A storm of protest is raging because Rishi Sunak is so far refusing to guarantee retirees will be given the full 8.5 per cent hike they are entitled to under the funding formula.

Former PM Theresa May today issued a warning shot to Mr Sunak, insisting that the pledge is there for a “very important reason”.

And this newspaper has again joined forces with senior citizens campaign group Silver Voices to launch a petition following the fresh threat to the pledge.

Director Dennis Reed said last night: “This is urgent, we only have a few weeks left to save the triple lock safeguard for millions of state pensioners.

“We must do everything we can to make sure there is no betrayal of the nation’s pensioners by the Government.”

He added: “It is a great pity that the Express and Silver Voices have had to pick up the gauntlet to save the lock again, as only a few months ago ministers were promising that, not only would the triple lock be honoured this year, but it would be guaranteed for years to come.”

Ministers are considering breaking the triple lock when they calculate next April’s state pension increase by tweaking the formula.

Mr Sunak also again dodged questions today over whether he will commit to keeping it in the next Tory manifesto.

In a pointed intervention, Mrs May said she included the triple lock in her general election pledges.

“I maintained the triple lock when I went to the country,” she said.

“I maintained it when I was there. The triple lock was there for a very important reason, which was that if you looked at what had happened under a Labour Government, pensioners had done by and large, quite badly in terms of increases in their pension.”

Wage growth figures out this week should push up payments by 8.5 per cent.

But the government is looking at saving hundreds of millions of pounds by stripping out public sector bonuses to bring the number down to 7.8 per cent.

Bonuses have been included in the formula since the triple lock was first introduced.

Downing Street refused to say if the triple lock will be altered when the calculations are done in the next few weeks.

The lock pegs state pension increases to the highest of 2.5 per cent, wages rises or inflation.

Mr Sunak suspended the forumula two years ago after a quirk caused by the covid crisis meant average earnings shot up. Instead, the state pension went up by 3.1 per cent.

Last year, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt listened to the 330,000 people who signed our first petition to announce the lock would be maintained.

Calculations will be made in the next few weeks with final confirmation likely to be in the autumn statement in November.

Senior Conservatives have called for the pledge to be ditched, arguing it is unsustainable.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg questioned whether it was fair to link it to wage growth.

He told GB News: “We currently have a welfare and a health budget that is becoming too big for the size of our economy.

“I think we’ve got to be clear that no one is suggesting that pensions shouldn’t go up with inflation so that pensioners would maintain their current standard of living.

“That’s really important and everyone is advocating that. I actually think the 2.5 per cent part of the triple lock is reasonable as well.

“What I think is difficult is to make it inflation and wages, whichever is the higher of those.

“If you look at working people, last year people in work for a pay increase that was below inflation, and this year they’re getting one that is ahead of inflation, now it’s their taxes that are paying the pensions.

“So one year they lost, one year they benefited, and pensioners benefited in both years.

“You have to ask, is that a fair balance between the working population and the retirement population?”

His calls come after Lord Hague, a close ally of Mr Sunak’s, and Tory candidate Rupert Harrison, a former Treasury aide, said it must be dropped.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “After another day of frenzied debate about the future of the triple lock, older people are entitled to feel increasingly nervous, and also somewhat dismayed about how the issue has so quickly become a political football, with rather less interest being expressed, it seems, in the reality of their lives.

“Against this unhappy context I’m sure the launch of a national campaign in support of the triple lock will be warmly welcomed by many of our older population, who will especially value the willingness of others to stand with them at a really difficult time.”

Lord Foulkes, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Older People, said: “By refusing to answer directly to give a guarantee that the pension triple lock is to remain the Prime Minister has today fired the starting gun on our campaign to protect the triple lock and save the poorest pensioners from slipping further into poverty.

“The triple lock is the only way that the pension can be guaranteed to be ratcheted up to protect those who rely on the basic pension to survive.

“The Express who have already highlighted its importance deserve our thanks for taking this up now in a new campaign.”

Jan Shortt, general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, said: “The NPC is grateful for the support given to the triple lock issue by the Daily Express, you are doing a great job.

“The failure of the Prime Minister to respond to questions in parliament on the triple lock, shows how little respect he and the Chancellor have for older people still struggling with highly inflated energy and food costs.

“The triple lock is a lifeline for those pensioners reliant on the basic state pension as their sole income.

“The rhetoric about ‘wealthy pensioners’ is something he and his think tanks rely on to drive a wedge between young and old.

“But the NPC are wise to the tricks. The NPC stands for pensioners of today and tomorrow because whatever happens to the triple lock today has an impact on future retirees because it is cumulative.

Our petition with Silver Voices calls on the Prime Minister to abide by the Conservatives’ manifesto promise to keep the lock in place for the duration of this Parliament.

“Any change in the way the triple lock is calculated, to make savings this year, will be regarded by older people as a breach of faith and a slippery slope to dispensing with the lock altogether,” it warns.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The Government is committed to the Triple Lock. As is the usual process, the Secretary of State will conduct his statutory annual review of benefits and State Pensions in the autumn, using the most recent data available.”

Click here to sign the petition – https://www.change.org/stick-with-the-triple-lock

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