Triple-lock pension protection should be abolished, says former pensions minister

'Politically, nobody had the courage to stand up and say we have done what we needed to do'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 31 July 2016 12:01
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Baroness Altmann also revealed she had urged former PM David Cameron to look at the triple-lock protection
Baroness Altmann also revealed she had urged former PM David Cameron to look at the triple-lock protection

The triple-lock protection for state pensions should be abolished in order to save billions, the former minister responsible for the benefits has urged.

Baroness Altmann, who left her post as pensions minister in Theresa May’s reshuffle, warned the cost of keeping the safeguard in place would be "enormous" after 2020.

Baroness Altmann told the Observer that she attempted to persuade David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, to drop the triple lock, which sees pensions rise by the inflation rate, average earnings or a 2.5% safety net – whichever is the highest – last year, but he refused for political reasons.

The newspaper also suggested that the Department for Work and Pensions refused to rule out a review of the current system but a spokesperson for the department said they refuse to comment on the "speculation" when approached by The Independent.

"The triple lock is a political construct, a totemic policy that is easy for politicians to trumpet, but from a pure policy perspective keeping it forever doesn't make sense," Lady Altmann added.

"I was proposing a double lock whereby either you increase state pensions in line with prices or with earnings. Absolutely we must protect pensioner incomes, but the 2.5 per cent bit doesn't make sense. If, for example, we went into a period of deflation where everything, both earnings and prices was falling, then putting up pensions by 2.5 per cent is a bit out of all proportion.

"Politically, nobody had the courage to stand up and say we have done what we needed to do."

The ex-minister, however, believes the triple lock could be abandoned now Ms May is in Downing Street. Her joint chief of staff Nick Timothy wrote in an article for Conservative Home last November that the “obvious alternative” to welfare credit cuts – looking at the triple lock – was “off the table” for then Chancellor George Osborne.

“He could redistribute the welfare cuts to take the pressure off low-paid, working people. But the obvious alternative is already off the table: pensioner benefits are protected and so is the 'triple lock', which means that the state pension goes up by the highest out of the growth of wages, inflation or 2.5%,” Mr Timothy wrote.

"Another option – to demonstrate that the Government really does value hard work above all else – is to stop the inheritance tax cut for estates valued between £650,000 and £1 million. But that policy is not only a manifesto promise but a totem for the Conservative Party."

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