David Cameron said it was “fair” to protect the basic state pension from cuts yesterday, but declined to rule out a squeeze on other pensioner benefits after the general election.
The Prime Minister has pledged to retain the “triple lock” guarantee of minimum annual pension rises of 2.5 per cent until at least 2020 if the Conservatives win the next Westminster election in 2015.
He said it was right to prioritise “dignity and security” for people in their old age while austerity continued to bite into welfare and other spending.
However, the Prime Minister failed to carry over a pledge made for the duration of this parliament to continue winter fuel payments, free prescriptions, bus passes and TV licences for all pensioners.
“I made a very clear promise. We’ve kept that promise,” he said – amid mounting political pressure from all sides to remove such perks from better-off OAPs.
Mr Cameron added: “We will set out our plans at the next election in our manifesto.”
Labour has said it would strip winter fuel payments from the richest 5 per cent of pensioners and the Liberal Democrats have also said they would means-test the benefit.
Under the “triple lock”, the basic state pension rises in line with inflation, wages or 2.5 per cent – whichever is the highest.
Mr Cameron said the protection had been made possible by “difficult decisions” such as extending the retirement age, meaning millions in their thirties and forties will wait longer to get a pension.
“Politics is about choices and the choice I make is: yes, we should be giving pensioners dignity and security in their old age,” he said yesterday.
“It is fair because you should be protecting pensioners,” he added – insisting the government was also taking a series of actions to improve conditions for young workers.
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said Labour supported the pension guarantee “in principle” but had not yet determined its policy for the 2015 election manifesto.
“People want us to have a fair system, but they want us to be responsible with the public finances,” he said.
“If I was to start making up policy on the hoof … that would be quite irresponsible.
“But I am quite clear on our direction of travel: in principle we support the ‘triple lock’.”
Liberal Democrat pensions minister Steve Webb said in June that, while he backed the continuation of the triple lock, parties would need to examine whether it remained affordable post-2015.