Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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Finally, in this Bill, it is official: the Government will break their triple-lock promise to pensioners. The state pension will not increase with earnings in 2022-23 after all. Well, well, well: we can hardly be surprised. The betrayal of the commitment to the triple lock can be filed under the same heading as the broken pledge not to raise national insurance and the pledge to maintain the commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development.

Those broken pledges fly in the face of yet another pledge from the Prime Minister:

“to restore trust in our institutions and in how our democracy operates.”—[Official Report, 15 January 2020; Vol. 669, c. 1019.]

I wonder whether anybody on the Treasury Bench can tell me how that is going. We are discussing the Elections Bill later this evening, but we do not need to look at that to see what restoring trust is worth. With the contents of the Elections Bill, even the Government realised that the assault on democracy that that constitutes meant they could not call it the electoral integrity Bill any more, because that really would be taking the mickey.

This particular broken pledge of abandoning the triple lock is an attack on the largest source of income for UK pensioners, on which they rely. Recent indications show that the number of pensioners living in poverty is rising. I wonder whether those on the Government Benches can even begin to imagine the anger, fury and sense of betrayal of those women born in the 1950s, some of whom have only just qualified for their state pension after so many years of being robbed of it, only to find a new betrayal—the abandonment of the triple lock. That is why SNP Members seek to require the Secretary of State to assess and to be held accountable for the impact that this legislation will have on poverty among pensioners in each of our constituencies. I will stand up for pensioners in North Ayrshire and Arran, just as all of my SNP colleagues will stand up for pensioners in their respective constituencies. This is what we have committed to do and that is what we will do.

It is a cause for shame that this cut is taking place fully in the context of the fact that we in the UK have the lowest levels of proportion of pre-retirement wages of all our European neighbours. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) pointed out, UK pensioners receive about a quarter of the average working wage when they retire, whereas pensioners in Austria and Luxembourg receive 90% of the average working wage. When will the UK Government devote a percentage of GDP to pensioner benefits that is similar to that in other advanced economies?

The other element to this scandal is that it takes place in the context of too many workers being excluded from automatic enrolment into workplace pensions. The failure to extend that impacts low earners and disproportionately impacts women, widening further the gender pensions gap. Why has that not been fully addressed?

The state pension remains an important source of income for pensioners living in or at risk of poverty because of the very low uptake of pension credit. I ask those on the Treasury Bench: what steps have been taken to increase uptake of pension credit—something I first raised four years ago? What has been done about that? I suspect—I fear—that nothing has been done about it. So much for levelling up.

The Government say they are breaking the triple-lock pledge because this year’s earnings measure is “skewed and distorted”. Well, I have heard people say the same thing about this Government’s priorities. Age UK has expressed real concern that this may not just be a one-off measure but a sneaky way of ditching the triple lock altogether. That might explain why there has been no impact assessment. Where is the impact assessment, given we have 2 million pensioners living in poverty and the triple lock is abandoned? That is a staggering oversight and complacency on stilts towards pensioner poverty.

For all those reasons, I support the reasoned amendment from the Scottish National party. This cut, falling on pensioners, will push more pensioners into poverty. The Government know that. The cut disadvantages women, who are more likely to be poorer in retirement. The Government know that. It is yet another kick in the teeth for WASPI women. Just like with the universal credit cut, this Government are imposing cuts that they know will cause real financial distress, but they go ahead anyway. What does that tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, about their vision of society? The only conclusion that can be drawn is that they do not care about the people they are supposed to serve. No other conclusion can be drawn. This Government have no interest in the greater good, only in sectional interests. That is why inequality is rising and will continue to rise. No wonder support for independence is rising. Increasingly, the people of Scotland want no more of this Government. Scotland needs a Government who govern for all the people with all the powers of an independent country. That is what the people of Scotland will choose.

--- Later in debate ---
Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I am not going to repeat the points I have made, but I manifestly disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. I would point out that we could add on the £24 billion of top-ups that this Government put forward over and above the £105 billion of state pension, so with respect we are in disagreement. There is also a significant degree of support for winter fuel, NHS prescriptions, free eye tests, the over-75s free TV licence and a variety of other matters.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson
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Will the Minister give way?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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No, not for the moment.

SNP Members raised many points, and I want to address them. No mention was made, surprisingly, of the powers under sections 24, 26 and 28 of the Scotland Act 2016, which give the Scottish Government the ability to intervene on such matters, should they wish to do so, including the WASPI matters. No mention was made in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross), who asked what currency an independent Scottish pension would be paid in. No mention was made of the ability to pay Scottish pensions upon independence, because of course answer there is none.

Reference was made to pension credit take-up, and I want to address the points made.

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I am about to answer the points the hon. Lady raised specifically, if she will bear with me.

Pension credit take-up was raised. We are doing a variety of things on that, including the pension credit awareness day in June, the engagement with the BBC—I met its chief executive only last week—the stakeholder roundtable in May, and the working group established with all the key partners in this matter, let alone the various other ways in which we have changed things and the over 11 million communications to pensioners up and down the country. The Government are proud of their record.