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Rich pensioners could be Tory targets after next election

By Nigel Morris

The Prime Minister is contemplating removing universal benefits from better-off pensioners if the Tories win the next General Election, he has indicated.

David Cameron refused to rule out withdrawing "pensioner perks" in the next Parliament, although Downing Street sources later insisted he was "minded" to retain such benefits as the winter fuel allowance after 2015.

The Prime Minister raised a question mark over their future yesterday as he announced plans to protect the value of the basic state pension.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, will warn today that 2014 will be a year of "hard truths", with more spending cuts to come, and will repeat his determination to cut the size of the state.

But Mr Cameron began setting out key policies for the Tories' 2015 General Election manifesto with a commitment to retain the so-called "triple lock" which would guarantee that pensions would rise by at least 2.5% annually between 2015 and 2020.

He told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "I think it is fair because I think you should be protecting pensions because of the dignity and security people deserve."

But he twice sidestepped questions over whether he would repeat his pre-election promise in 2010 to protect pensioners' benefits such as winter fuel payments, free bus travel and free television licences for the over-75s. Mr Cameron said: "We will set our plans at the next election in our manifesto."

Labour has said it would remove winter fuel payments from the richest 5% of recipients.

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