David Willetts: 'The Conservative Party will save your pension'

From a speech by the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary to the Tory party conference in Bournemouth

Do you know how many pension schemes have wound up since Labour came to office? A shocking 10,300. And of course you know how much Labour have taken from our pension funds with the worst stealth tax of the lot: £5bn a year.

And as our pension funds lose value, what do Labour do? They drive people on to means-tested benefits instead. Just about everyone agrees we need to reverse the spread of means-tested benefits and improve incentives to save by increasing the value of the basic state pension. It's not just us. It's business and the trade unions. It is the pension funds and pensioners themselves. There is a progressive consensus that Conservatives have helped to shape.

But Gordon Brown is not part of it. Instead, he penalises our savings and means-tests our benefits. That's not just an innocent mistake. He really wants to determine everyone's income down to the last pound. It's what old socialism and new Labour have in common. And it doesn't go with the grain of human nature.

Conservatives understand, as we always have, the human need for dignity and security. The moment a Conservative government is in office we will send out a clear instruction that the pension should be uprated by earnings, not prices. We can take one million pensioners off the means-test in our first parliament. We are not going to abolish the Pension Credit, but it will gradually be replaced by the higher state pension.

We save money on means-tested benefits that pensioners don't like in order to put more money into the basic state pension, which they do. And we will get more money into pensions by abolishing the New Deal, which hasn't worked.

Longer, healthier lives are great news. When we're told we must look at them as a threat, how badly are we going wrong?

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