Labour vows to guarantee pension triple-lock until 2025
The triple-lock guarantee on state pension increases will be protected up until 2025 if Labour wins the next election, the Opposition has vowed.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has put the commitment on a pensioners' pledge card, along with other promises aimed at wooing older voters.
However, he got a rough ride from pensioners on a visit to Coventry in the West Midlands who asked why, if pension pledges were such a good idea, Labour had failed to introduce legal protections when in power.
Sandra Winstanley, 71, a retired shop worker, asked: "Why didn't you do that years ago, when you were in power - and now you're not and you've messed everything up?"
Mr McDonnell said: "Well, that's exactly it - you learn a lesson because what we said is we support the triple-lock.
"Let's put it in law now, because the one thing you don't want is it being torn up again."
Labour is also promising compensation for women hardest-hit by increases in the state pension age, protection for elderly Britons living overseas, and a commitment to keep winter fuel payments and free bus passes.
The triple-lock mechanism guarantees that the state pension increases annually by the highest measure out of average wages, inflation, or 2.5%.
Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement gave a signal that while the triple-lock is safe for now, it may not be immune from cuts in the longer term - which Labour believes offers the opportunity to win over older voters.
The party said the commitment to maintain the triple-lock would increase pensioners' incomes by at least £650 between 2021/22 and 2023/24, compared with increasing the state pension in line with inflation.
House of Commons Library analysis showed that for those on the basic state pension, the triple-lock will be worth £652.60 over the period, while for those on the new state pension the guarantee will be worth £852.80.
The shadow chancellor said the triple-lock was "already funded within the budget", and was "perfectly coverable" into the future.
He said the other pledges would be funded by cutting "Government giveaways" on capital gains tax, the bankers' levy, and corporation tax, which would make the proposed measures "easily affordable".
Asked if it was affordable to lock-in increasing pensions, and keep add-ons such as concessionary bus travel and the winter fuel allowance, he added: "We can do both."
"I am hoping, as a result of the pressure we're putting on the Government, that the Government itself will come forward with legislation on the triple-lock.
"If not, we'll be looking at parliamentary opportunities to amend legislation to do it."
Earlier, Mr McDonnell said: "I am delighted to be launching this pledge card that will inform many elderly people in our communities that Labour is not only promising to stand up for pensioners, but is determined to ensure they keep the hard-won entitlements they currently hold.
"It's a national scandal that pensioner poverty is rising and the Tories are refusing to commit to keeping the triple-lock or compensate women worst affected by the speeding up in the state pension age.
"Only a Labour government will stand up for pensioners and protect them throughout the next parliament."
The pledge card was launched during a visit to an Age UK-run centre in Coventry, where he met some of the 400 pensioners who come to do arts and crafts.
Ann Caswell, 77, a retired GP surgery secretary, said she was "pissed off" at having been "dumped on" by a pension system that had failed to account for her having stayed at home to raise a family.
She told Mr McDonnell: "We don't get full state pension because we did part-time work, bringing our children up.
"And we get penalised now and I feel really pissed off about it - well I do."
Another centre user urged Mrs Caswell to "tell it like it is", as Mrs Caswell went on to say: "I have two children who employ people, so they're productive people, I brought up two great children.
"And I'm getting dumped on - it's not right.
"Why can we not be rewarded for what we did, instead of penalised?"
After the visit, she said it was "imperative" for everyone to vote but was not confident Labour or any other political party could make a difference to women like her who had "slipped through the net".
Asked if she would keep her pledge card, she replied: "I'll have to read it first."
Others in the room, who were busy with needlecraft, said they might "put it in the bin".
A pledge card listing eye-catching policies was used by Labour in the run-up to the 1997 landslide victory under Tony Blair, and repeated at subsequent general elections.
Labour's latest promises have been dismissed by the Tories, who claimed that pensioners would suffer because Jeremy Corbyn's party would "crash" the economy by failing to control public finances.
Conservative MP Kelly Tolhurst said: "Labour's economic mismanagement hit older people hard when they were in government, and Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell's reckless plans would do the same all over again.
"Our careful management of the economy, changes to help people save more for their retirement, and protections for pensioner benefits and the state pension are all helping people have dignity and security in retirement."