According to the Government's own figures 2 million pensioners live in poverty in our country. 25,000 died last winter as a result of cold related conditions. In a survey last year 4 out of 10 elderly people arriving at accident and emergency hospitals were found to be malnourished.
A major cause of this suffering is poverty. As Age Concern stated today "the pension is simply not enough to live on". This has largely been caused by Thatcher's policy of cutting the link between rises in earnings and pensions in 1980. Since then a pensioner has lost over £50 a week in pension.
After waging a ten year campaign, pensioners organisations, trade unions and Labour Party members at long last persuaded Gordon Brown to commit to restoring the link with earnings. However he has said that he would only restore the link in 2012 at the earliest based upon his judgement then of its "affordability and the fiscal position" and if necsessary only by 2015. The pensioners groups pointed out to him that 3 million pensioners will have died by then. They need help now!
Today in support of the National Pensioners Convention and many other pensioners campaigning groups I tabled amendments to the Government's Pensions Bill to restore the link with earnings and to increase the basic state pension to the level of the pension credit. The aim was to raise the basic pension and to lift people off means tested benefits. Already nearly 40% of pensioners do not claim the means tested benefits they are entitled to and these benefits are 10 times more expensive to administer.
By guillotining the Pensions Bill debate and having ministers talk at length on other issues the Government made sure that these amendments were not even debated and not voted on. So Gordon Brown got his way and an increase in pensions and the restoration of the earnings link were blocked.
It shouldn't be that after 10 years of a Labour government so many of our pensioners live in poverty. This is not acceptable in the fifth largest economy in the world and when last week it was revealed that the Chief Executives of the top 100 FTSE companies earn an average £6 million a year.
Today we could have helped a large number of our pensioners out of poverty.
New Labour stopped us.