Margaret Greenwood – 2022 Speech on the State Pension Triple Lock

The speech made by Margaret Greenwood, the Labour MP for Wirral West, in the House of Commons on 8 November 2022.

Many residents in Wirral West have written to me and spoken to me about their extreme anxiety about the cost of living crisis and what they see as the Government’s lack of commitment to maintaining the state pension triple lock for the next financial year. They are desperate for certainty and they need help.

I note the Secretary of State’s remarks about the forthcoming fiscal event, but surely he or the Minister can give some comfort to retired people who are anxious about this issue. They need that reassurance because there has been so much turmoil in the Conservative party—turmoil that has been accompanied by numerous policy U-turns. It is vital that the Government retain the triple lock, as it was a Conservative party manifesto commitment and must be honoured.

As we know, last year the Conservatives broke that commitment. At the time, the Government said that they

“can and will apply the triple lock as usual from next year for the remainder of this Parliament, in line with our manifesto commitment.” —[Official Report, 7 September 2021; Vol. 700, c. 185.]

It is therefore vital that they keep their word. People are struggling with the cost of living crisis, which has been made far worse by the chaos that the Conservative Government of just a few weeks ago brought to the financial markets with their mini-Budget. Through sheer recklessness, their policy choices sent mortgage rates soaring, brought the pensions industry to the brink of collapse and crashed the economy.

Despite the comments that we have heard from the Government today, pensioner poverty is an extremely serious and live issue. This year’s “State of Ageing” report by the Centre for Ageing Better found that almost one in five people over the age of 65 were living in poverty in the 2019-20 period. That is 2 million people. Age UK has said that malnutrition is a growing risk for older people, and that if the UK Government fail to raise the state pension and benefits in line with inflation, they will plunge many people into a genuinely desperate situation. Pensioners are struggling with soaring food prices and increased energy costs.

I would like to share with the House some of my constituents’ experiences and fears, because they have asked me to represent their concerns. One woman who is in her early 80s has written to me to say that she suffers from a number of health issues, including rheumatoid arthritis. It is vital for her to keep warm, and even though she is cutting back on using the heating, her energy bills keep rising alarmingly. She says:

“It’s hard to imagine where it will all end.”

Another constituent told me that she and her husband are currently struggling with a huge increase in the cost of living and out-of-control heating bills. They sit at night with blankets wrapped around themselves, as they cannot afford to put on the central heating. Their fuel bills have increased to more than £270 a month, and they are worried that they will go up again next April. Another constituent whose partner has a number of long-term health conditions has said that she is

“petrified to put the heating on and the hot water is only put on once a day for a short period.”

She is really concerned that her partner’s health will get worse because they cannot heat their home. One woman in her mid-70s told me that she worries every day about heating and food. She asked for the triple lock to be protected simply so that she and other pensioners can afford to live.

It is clear that the triple lock on the state pension must be maintained for my constituents and for people across the country. It is about dignity and security for older people and about protecting them from poverty. I also ask the Minister to set out what action her Government will take to encourage greater take-up of pension credit. The Government must do the right thing and come forward today with a commitment to protect the triple lock.