Will the pensions triple lock survive the election? That’s the question being asked in Westminster after Rishi Sunak refused to commit to keeping it in the next Conservative manifesto. In a press huddle with hacks on his trip back from India, the Prime Minister said: ‘I’m not going to get into our manifesto now but the triple lock has been a long-standing policy for us.’
This could be read two ways. The first is that the PM simply doesn’t want to get into the game of confirming manifesto commitments as doing so will invite further questions about other policies. The second is that he wants to at least leave open the option of ditching the costly policy.
That cost is back in focus today as new figures suggest the state pension is likely to rise by 8.5 per cent in April. The policy – which was designed to ensure pensioners are able to afford rising prices – guarantees retirement benefits increase each year in line with September’s inflation figure, wage growth stats or 2.5 per cent, depending on which is highest. This pledge, introduced back in 2010, is often cited as an example of intergenerational unfairness: by next year the state pension is expected to have gone up by 11 per cent more than average earnings. Yet it has so far been viewed as too politically risky to ditch: the Tories, particularly, rely on pensioners when it comes to votes.
So, William Hague’s column in the Times today is a source of intrigue. The former Conservative party leader writes that the triple lock is ‘ultimately unsustainable’ so ‘somehow the main political parties have to give themselves, and each other, the space to amend it’.