UK Politics

Labour will protect pensioner incomes, says Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband

A Labour government would guarantee free TV licences and bus passes for pensioners and protect the value of the state pension, Ed Miliband has said.

At a campaign event in Yorkshire, the Labour leader set out his offer to pensioners, saying David Cameron cannot be trusted to deliver for them.

Labour will maintain the "triple lock" on the state pension, which ensures annual increases of at least 2.5%.

But it will take winter fuel allowance away from better-off pensioners.

The Conservatives have made "dignity in retirement" one of their key election themes and are promising to maintain all universal pensioner benefits in the next Parliament - at the same time as they seek more than £10bn in further welfare savings.

The over-65s are traditionally more likely to vote in general elections than younger voters, leading to claims that the Conservatives are courting the "grey vote" by shielding pensioners from the worst of austerity measures to tackle the deficit.

'Doing right'

At an event in Redcar, Mr Miliband said David Cameron "likes to boast" of his support for pensioners "but like all his other claims...you have to read the small print".

He restated Labour's policy of removing winter fuel allowance from pensioners with retirement incomes of more than £42,000, saying this is a "tough but necessary" choice to reduce annual borrowing levels.

But he made a new guarantee that Labour will protect the incomes of the vast majority of pensioners.

"Labour has a better plan for protecting pensioners," he said.

"We have taken a difficult decision to restrict winter fuel payments for the very richest older people, the top 5% with retirement incomes that make them higher-rate taxpayers.

"But today I can announce that is the only change we are planning in the system.

"Because even in these tough times when the deficit must be cleared, Labour knows the importance of ensuring those who have worked all their lives can retire with dignity.

"We will strengthen the protection for pensioners' living standards offered by the triple lock by guaranteeing winter fuel payments to all but the wealthiest as well as bus passes and free TV licences to all those currently eligible.

"This is a big commitment but it is one I am making today because doing right by older people is the right thing to do."

Triple lock

The Conservatives have said they are committed to protecting all universal benefits for older people, which also include free prescriptions and eye tests.

David Cameron has rejected means-testing any pensioner benefits, saying they are not a luxury and society has a duty to look after the oldest and more vulnerable.

The Liberal Democrats have said the wealthiest pensioners should lose some of their entitlements and propose to take away winter fuel allowance and TV licences from higher rate taxpayers paying tax at 40%.

The coalition government introduced the triple lock guarantee on pensions in 2011, ensuring that pensioner incomes keep pace on an annual basis with inflation, earnings or 2.5%, whichever is the highest.

In his speech, Mr Miliband said Labour will also consult on capping the fees and charges on financial products allowing people to draw down their pensions and investment income to stop people being "ripped off".

A Conservative spokesman said: "Last Friday he was announcing a raid on the pensions of nurses and teachers to pay for his cobbled together tuition fees policy.

"This Friday he's claiming that he can be trusted to protect your winter fuel allowance - it just doesn't stack up.

"All Ed Miliband would end up doing is borrowing more, taxing more and spending more - and pensioners up and down the country would pay the price."

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