May dodges questions on triple lock in PMQs

May dodges questions on triple lock in PMQs

Conservative prime minister Theresa May has refused to clarify her party's position on the triple lock on the state pension, fueling speculation she intends to scrap the policy.

In Prime Minister's Questions today (26 April), Scottish National MP Angus Robertson asked Ms May clarify the government's position on the policy, which guarantees the state pension will increase annually by the highest of inflation, earnings growth, or 2.5 per cent.

"Will the prime minister give a clear and unambiguous commitment to maintaining the triple lock on the state pension?" the member for Moray asked.

In her answer, Ms May dodged the issue completely.

"I’ve been very clear that under this Conservative government, we have seen pensioners benefit as a result of what we’ve done to the basic state pension to the tune of £1,250 a year.

"And I am clear that under a Conservative government pension incomes would continue to increase," she said.

Mr Robertson responded: "I asked the prime minister a pretty simple question, it’s a 'yes' or a 'no', and the prime minister failed to answer."

He interpreted her evasiveness as evidence that "pensioners right across this land are right to conclude that this Tory prime minister plans to ditch the triple lock on the state pension".

He went on: "Mr Speaker, too many women already face pensions inequality and the Tories now won’t even guarantee the pensions triple lock. And the only reason that they will not guarantee it is because they want to cut pensions.

"Is not the message to pensioners, you cannot trust this prime minister, you cannot trust the Tories on your pension?"

Ms May repeated her point that pension incomes would increase under another Conservative government, but did not say whether or not the triple lock would remain in place.

Referring to the new flat rate state pension, she went on: "And he talks about inequality for women. It’s the change in the structure of the state pension introduced by this government that is going to improve the lot of women, female pensioners in the future, and is going to be much better for them." 

The government had previously committed to keeping the triple lock in place until the current parliament reached its full term in 2020. But the snap election, called earlier this month, meant that timetable was no long relevant.

Labour has committed to keeping the triple lock in place. The party has also, along with the SNP, committed to addressing the ongoing grievances of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign, something the Conservative government has resolutely refused to do.

If the Conservatives opt to scrap the triple lock, they are in danger of losing up to a third of votes from over-55s, a recent survey by Old Mutual Wealth found.

This age group traditionally has a high turn-out rate - around 78 per cent in the 2015 general election, compared to 43 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds, according to Ipsos Mori - meaning a decision to scrap the policy could damage the party's chances of re-election.