MPs backed the second reading of the Social Security (Uprating Of Benefits) Bill, the legal mechanism to scrap the pensions triple lock next year to avoid an unintended 8% rise
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Tory MPs have officially backed scrapping the pensions triple lock in a Commons vote that breaches the party’s own manifesto.
MPs tonight voted 300-55 for the second reading of a Bill that will legally cancel the promise for pension rises next April.
A final vote on the third reading of the Social Security (Uprating Of Benefits) Bill was expected to pass later tonight.
The news will be a blow to more than 12million British pensioners, but Tory ministers insisted it would be wrong to award them a bumper rise due to a “statistical anomaly”.
Normally pensions rise by either 2.5%, inflation, or average earnings – whichever is highest.
But in May-July 2020, average earnings fell by 1% compared to the same period in 2019 – partly because so many people were on 80% or less of their usual pay due to furlough.
This means average weekly earnings are now “artificially” bouncing back this year as people come off furlough.
So instead pensions will rise by the highest of inflation or 2.5% – which will still be more than working-age benefits or public sector wages.
Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said if she hadn’t acted, pensions would have risen by 8.3% next April.
She told MPs: “This statistical spike in earnings is down to a Covid-related distortion, I am seeking the agreement of Parliament to again set aside the earnings link for just one more year 2022/2023.”
She added: “The triple-lock policy will be applied in the usual way from next year for the remainder of Parliament.”
But Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Christine Jardine said: “The Conservatives are on track to break yet another manifesto promise that will hit people in the pocket.
“With two million pensioners living in poverty, the triple lock was a guarantee that vulnerable elderly people were relying on. Yet this winter the government will instead turn its back on the poorest pensioners, some of whom risk no longer being able to heat their homes as energy costs spiral.”
Labour appeared to abstain on the second reading of the Bill. The party said it was not calling for the triple lock to be kept this year – but pointed out it broke the Tory manifesto.
Shadow DWP minister Matt Rodda said there had been three broken promises in a few months – on pensions, aid spending, and the pledge not to raise National Insurance.
He said: “We’re not calling for an 8% rise in the state pension, but the government must come clean and show why they cannot calculate the underlying earnings growth over a longer period of time.”
It came as two Tory grandees lost their bid to stage a last-ditch Commons revolt against the £20-a-week Universal Credit cut.
Former leader and DWP chief Sir Iain Duncan Smith, and Theresa May’s former deputy Damian Green, tried to force a vote in the debate on the pensions triple lock.
But the amendment was not selected by Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who rules on whether such bids are relevant to the debate.
In his speech, Mr Duncan Smith hinted the Tory welfare chief has been secretly lobbying for Universal Credit to be more generous for working people.
He said: “I hope [Therese Coffey] will take the amendment we placed as justification for her negotiations with the Treasury to secure a better investment in the taper.”
The “taper” refers to the amount taken away from claimants in benefits for every pound they earn. Currently, each pound from earnings (over an allowance) triggers a 63p reduction in UC.