25 March 2024

Hunt makes triple-lock pledge but refuses to commit to Waspi women payouts

25 March 2024

Jeremy Hunt has promised the triple lock for pensions will be included in the Tory election manifesto but refused to commit to compensation for so-called Waspi women.

The Chancellor said the safeguard would be kept throughout the next parliament under the Conservatives, insisting he was confident the “expensive” policy could be paid for through economic growth.

The triple lock refers to the commitment to raise the state pension every year in line with whichever is highest out of wage growth, inflation or 2.5%.

It has become a hallmark of successive Conservative governments since it was announced in 2010, but there has been a debate about its long-term future due its costs.

“Absolutely. We made that commitment to pensioners and we think it’s a very important one,” he told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme when asked if he could guarantee the measure would be continued.

Labour said it was “committed to retaining” the triple lock but party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds did not confirm whether the policy would feature in its manifesto when questioned by broadcasters on Sunday.

The Liberal Democrats accused the Tories of playing a “shameless election trick” over the safeguard and claimed the party was “taking pensioners for granted”.

Elsewhere, Mr Hunt declined to promise compensation for women hit by changes to state pension eligibility, amid accusations the Government failed to adequately inform those born in the 1950s about an increase in the entitlement age.

Speaking to broadcasters, the Chancellor denied pushing the decision to the right for a future administration to deal with, as Labour enjoys a sustained double-digit lead in opinion polls ahead of this year’s election.

He said the issue highlighted by the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign was “genuinely more complicated” than others in which compensation has been promised, like the infected blood disaster and the Post Office Horizon scandal.

It comes after a long-awaited report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) that found the changes to the state pension age were not communicated adequately and those affected should receive an apology and compensation.

Asked whether it was responsible for the Government to leave “huge unpaid bills” to the next parliament, he said: “We had the ombudsman’s report on Thursday, but we’ve also had a report from the High Court and Court of Appeal in 2020 that says the Department for Work and Pensions behaved completely within the law and didn’t discriminate.

“So it appears to say something different and we do need to get to the bottom of that apparent difference between the two.”

He added: “We want to resolve it as quickly as we can, but there’s no secret vault of money.

“The money we would pay in compensation has to come from other taxpayers, so we do have to take time to get this fair.”

Campaigners have demanded action over the report, warning Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be on a “sticky wicket” seeking votes from Waspi women when he goes to the country later this year if he does not heed the ombudsman’s findings.

But amid straitened public finances, politicians on both sides have shied away from commitments to payouts, with neither Labour nor the Conservatives saying whether they would compensate those affected.

The PHSO suggested compensation could cost between £3.5 billion and £10.5 billion, although campaigners are pushing for a higher figure.

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