Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Golden Opportunity to Right Old Wrong

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Golden Opportunity to Right Old Wrong

Article excerpt


AS WE enter the last party conference season before the General Election, policies are being sought and fought over as the main parties meet to discuss the issues on which the public will go to the polls.

This is a golden opportunity to right old wrongs.

One of the most shameful is Margaret Thatcher's decision in 1980 to break the link between state pensions and earnings, thereby reducing the living standards for pensioners.

Sadly, my government has so far ignored a clear Labour Party Conference decision to reinstate the link, which is a major issue for myself, other MPs and unions.

Government policy currently promises that the link will be reinstated in 2012 but only if economic circumstances permit.

I am keen to raise the reinstatement of the link between pensions and earnings up the political agenda, and to that end I am working closely with the Northern Regional members of the National Pensioners Convention, whose Secretary, Bob Pinkerton, lives in my constituency. They appreciate the positive moves that Labour has delivered, including free TV licences, free concessionary bus travel and increases to heating allowances.

The poorest pensioners are also now guaranteed a minimum income through Pension Credit.

But they also see our failure to reinstate the link as a real injustice that must be rectified and I wholeheartedly agree.

Pensions have been under great pressure for three decades, with many second pension schemes being undermined or scrapped. The fact that the basic state pension has also fallen in comparison to earnings only compounds the problem.

The Government has helped some groups, especially the least well off pensioners. But the broken link must be removed and it must be removed now, not after the next election, as has been promised but which is not guaranteed.

There are three good reasons why I suggest reinstating the link in next year's budget. …

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