19th May 2017
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey went on the offensive as they unveiled a new attack poster warning voters about a “Tory triple whammy for pensioners”.
The party says plans to scrap the triple lock on pensions, end universal winter fuel payments and overhaul the social care system are an assault on the living standards of the over-65s.
The Conservatives say people of all ages will suffer if Labour are in charge of the economy and Brexit after the General Election on 8 June.
Labour’s salvo on pensioners comes after Mrs May unveiled her election manifesto on Thursday.
On the triple lock, Labour says that if its replacement, the less generous double lock, had been in place since 2010 pensioners would now be £330 worse off.
Ms Long-Bailey said that in 2015, growth had been so weak the basic state pension would have been uprated by just £1.36 under the double lock formula.
She said proposals set out in the Tory manifesto for the pension age to reflect life expectancy mean that 34 million people will have to work longer if Mrs May stays in Downing Street.
“They have laid bare the threat they pose to pensioner security and living standards and shown beyond a doubt that they are turning their backs on older people and future generations of pensioners,” she said.
“Those people who worked hard, they did everything that was asked of them, they put their blood, sweat and tears into making Britain great.
“Today they must feel like they have been kicked in the teeth.”
Under the triple lock, pensions are uprated by the rate of earnings, prices or 2.5%, whichever is higher. Under the double lock, the 2.5% minimum guarantee is binned.
“That’s not good enough to guarantee the real value of pensioners’ incomes and frankly older people, who have worked hard all their lives, deserve a lot better than this. They deserve respect,” Ms Long-Bailey said.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the “attack” on pensioners comes at a time when living standards are already being squeezed.
He said the average household is paying nearly £2,000 more in direct and indirect taxation than in 2010.
Under current Conservative proposals, he said there were net tax rises of £14.4bn – the equivalent of £760 per family – on the horizon between now and 2021/2022.
“Under the Tories, the UK has experienced the worst decade in real household disposable income since 1949. This has a material impact on household finances,” he said.
“The average household is £1,000 worse-off this year alone as a result of the Tories’ abysmal record on living standards relative to what households could have expected under Labour.”
Mr McDonnell challenged the Conservatives on winter fuel payments, saying: “This is a savage attack on vulnerable pensioners, particularly those who are just about managing.
“It is disgraceful and we are calling on the Conservative Party to withdraw it today.”
In response to a question from Sky’s Tamara Cohen, Mr McDonnell dismissed concern over the fact that the universal nature of the benefit means wealthy pensioners – such as Rolling Stones frontman Sir Mick Jagger, for example – can get cash for their heating.
Mr McDonnell, who is 65, also admitted claiming his Winter Fuel Allowance, but defended its universality.
He said: “With regard to the Winter Fuel Allowance, I spend it on winter fuel.
“But the issue there overall is that I’m on an MP’s salary and I get taxed, as a result of that it will contribute to the overall exchequer and that’s the fairest way of doing it.
“I do not want means testing introduced on winter fuel because we know … at least a third do not claim pensioner credit because it’s means tested.
“I think it’s a more efficient way of getting the money to where it is really needed.”
A Conservative spokesman said: “Our long-term plan for elderly care will make the system fairer, better funded and more sustainable – helping to ensure elderly people receive the dignified and high quality care they deserve.
“Jeremy Corbyn can’t deliver anything and isn’t being honest with people.
“His numbers don’t add up and the only way to pay for his ideas is massive tax hikes on working people.”
:: And don’t forget to watch it on Sky News: The Battle For Number 10 on Bank Holiday Monday, 29 May, at 8.30pm.