Pensions pledge

Parties back triple lock but not Waspi campaigners

Jeremy Hunt on Kuenssberg
Jeremy Hunt: the triple lock is an expensive commitment

Pensioners were told today that the triple lock on the state pension will be retained whether Labour or the Conservatives win the general election.

However, neither party would commit to compensating women who say they lost out after changes to the state pension age.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the triple lock, which means the increase in the state pension is the highest of average earnings growth, inflation or 2.5%, will be retained if the Tories return to power.

He said in a television interview that continuing with it would be an “expensive commitment”, but added: “You can only make that commitment if you’re confident that you’re going to deliver the economic growth that is going to pay for it.”

Labour chairman Anneliese Dodds said her party was “committed to retaining” the triple lock, though it has not confirmed if the pledge will feature in its election manifesto.

“We will set out those plans for our manifesto in detail,” she said. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer declined to say if the triple lock would be in his party’s manifesto when asked by The Sun newspaper last week.

The state pension will rise next month by 8.5% next month, the rate of inflation in September when the increase in fixed. With inflation and wage growth both slowing it is likely that next year’s rise will be nearer the 2.5% level.

This year’s increase is the second significant rise in the state pension in two years, after a 10.1% increase in April 2023.

The triple lock was introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010, but there has been debate over whether it can continue in the long-term future due to its costs, not only from increases in the payments but because of the ageing population.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies economic think tank, said it made sense for the Conservatives in particular to back pensioners as they represent a big proportion of the party’s support. However, he warned: “It can’t go on forever and they need to give an indication to when they want it to stop.”

In today’s television interviews, neither Mr Hunt nor Ms Dodds would say if they would compensate those who were found by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to have lost out financially after the state pension age for women was changed from 60 to 66.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn supported the Waspi women in 2019 (pic: Terry Murden)

The Department for Work and Pensions was accused of failing to adequately communicate the changes and in its report last week the PHSO called on it to “do the right thing” and pay up.

Expressing caution over the issue, Mr Hunt said: “We had the ombudsman’s report on Thursday, but we’ve also had a report from the High Court and Court of Appeal in 2020 that says the Department for Work and Pensions behaved completely within the law and didn’t discriminate.

“So it appears to say something different and we do need to get to the bottom of that apparent difference between the two.”

He added: “We want to resolve it as quickly as we can, but there’s no secret vault of money. The money we would pay in compensation has to come from other taxpayers, so we do have to take time to get this fair.”

Ms Dodds also refused to commit to compensation even though the party said in 2019 that it would do so.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has challenged his Conservative and Labour counterparts to “give a cast-iron guarantee that WASPI women will receive full compensation”.

In a letter to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer today, Stephen Flynn MP said “women in Scotland have been betrayed and badly let down by Westminster” and warned “You must not break your promises and abandon WASPI women again – as it shamefully appears you are preparing to do”.

The Alba Party, led by former SNP leader Alex Salmond, accused both the Conservatives and Labour of a “betrayal” of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI).

It stated that justice for WASPI Women “can now only be secured with Scottish independence”, but offered no detail on how much compensation it would pay or how it would be financed.

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