David Cameron dodges question on cuts to winter fuel payment, prescriptions, bus passes and television licence

 

David Cameron today dodged a direct question about whether the Tories plan to start cutting winter fuel payments and free prescriptions, bus passes and television licences for better off pensioners.

The idea that the elderly should be the next group to share the pain of public spending cuts was raised by the Tory MP Nick Boles, a close ally of Mr Cameron, who it is thought may have been acting as an outrider for the Prime Minister, raising the idea to test the reaction.

Mr Cameron has ruled out any such cuts before a general election because of a clear promise he made during the 2010 campaign – but that does not rule out the possibility of introducing them if the Conservatives return to power in 2015.

The Labour MP Lillian Greenwood tried at Prime Minister’s Questions today to get Mr Cameron to say where he stands, by challenging him to “categorically rule out the means-testing of bus passes, including in his manifesto for the next general election.”

Mr Cameron replied: “At the last election I made very clear promises about bus passes, about television licences and about winter fuel payments. We are keeping all those promises.”

His ambiguous answer reinforced suspicions in Westminster that the Tories are thinking of means testing pensioner benefits. Nick Clegg has also hinted that it could be Liberal Democrat policy, when he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr last December: “We should be asking millionaire pensioners to perhaps make a little sacrifice on their free TV licence or their free bus passes.”

But that is not Lib Dem policy, and there would be opposition within the party of Mr Clegg tried to include it in their manifesto. One Lib Dem minister said today: “If David Cameron wants to pursue this policy at the next election, then that would be a clear dividing line between the parties.”

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