The Labour Party in Blackpool: Tax could 'top up' pensions

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LABOUR aims to eliminate the 'massive means testing of the elderly', Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, said yesterday as he trailed the idea of integrating tax and benefits for the elderly, writes Nicholas Timmins.

His comments came as Donald Dewar, the party's social security spokesman, declared that Labour was 'committed to a basic state retirement pension available to all' and said Labour would not abandon social insurance.

But Mr Dewar warned the conference that it was 'a cruel deception to pretend that any government can spend and spend', and that 'those on benefit have duties and responsibilities as well as rights and entitlements'. His endorsement of child benefit also stopped short of a wholesale commitment to keep the benefit as it is, although he praised it as 'a resource for the mother, an investment in our future'.

Labour's priority was to help pensioners living in poverty, particularly the 1.6 million pensioners on income support and the further 500,000 who were entitled but did not claim, he said. His speech hinted at using the tax system to help top up the incomes of the worst-off pensioners.