§ Mr. McCartney
The Government want all pensioners to have a decent and secure income in retirement and to share fairly in the rising prosperity of the country. The Government's first priority has been to help the poorest pensioners.
The Government introduced the minimum income guarantee and are committed to raising this in line with earnings throughout this Parliament, ensuring that pensioners share in rising prosperity. The Government have introduced winter fuel payments for older people. The winter fuel payment was doubled to £200 a year in winter 2000–01 for qualifying households and will continue to be paid at £200 for the lifetime of this Parliament. The Government have also introduced free TV licences for the over-75s, worth £104. Both the WFP and TV licences are non-means tested and tax-free.
The Government have made above-inflation increases in the basic state pension in both 2001 and 2002. In April 2002 the basic state pension rose by £3 for single pensioners and £4.80 for couples. In April 2003, it will rise by at least £100 a year for single pensioners and £160 for couples, and in subsequent years by either 2.5 per cent. or by inflation, whichever is highest.
Around 1.8 million of the poorest pensioner households are now over £1,000 a year better off in real terms as a result of the Government's tax and benefit reforms.
In the constituency of Altrincham and Sale, West, around 2,400 pensioners are receiving the minimum income guarantee. There were also around 19,000 winter fuel payments made last winter and there are 7,500 pensioner households who could benefit from a free TV licence.
From 2003 the pension credit will ensure that it pays to have saved, with those entitled standing to gain an average of around £400 a year.