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Mr. Webb: The hon. Lady is obviously easily confused. The inflation figure for next April is £2.25 and I pledged £5 on top of inflation, making the £7.25 mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor). The taper mentioned in the manifesto would mean a rate of less than the 100 per cent. tax that she applies to pensioners' savings. That would be better than what she has delivered.

Angela Eagle: I notice that the hon. Gentleman did not address the point about the manifesto, which is on the record. All the Liberal Democrats promised to do is what we have done in government.

The Conservatives recently produced their pensions policy and, clearly, they also agree only with an increase in terms of prices. However, they would abolish winter fuel payments. They would abolish the Christmas bonus and the free television licences for the over-75s--even though those are arriving as we speak. They would abolish the age addition for the over-80s and, interestingly, the winter fuel payments to men over 60.

In her speech--which I enjoyed--the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) asked me why 1 million men aged between 60 and 65 were still waiting for their winter

6 Nov 2000 : Column 79

fuel payments. What a cheek to ask me that, when the Conservatives have announced that they would abolish the payment.

Mrs. Lait: Does the Minister agree that the philosophical point is that people want to have their money in their own pockets to spend as they wish, rather than the gimmicks that the Government deliver? They want the dignity and self-respect of spending their own money.

Angela Eagle: The practical point is that, according to the Saga poll, 75 per cent. of pensioners do not want their winter fuel payments abolished.

The Tories' "Common Sense for Pensioners" policy would effectively give 42p extra to some people in certain circumstances. That is enough to buy a tin of Campbell's soup--very generous. The Tory document contains some questions and answers. For example:


The answer is:


The reality is that men aged between 60 and 65 will not get winter fuel payments when they retire under the Tories.

Spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has increased and will be greater by April 2001 than when we came to power, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State made clear. We must remember also that that is a higher percentage of a growing GDP because we have had a successful economy under the Labour Government. The cake is getting bigger and the percentage given to pensioners is also getting bigger. That is before whatever might happen on Wednesday, so part of the Liberal Democrat motion is inaccurate.

I have had some fun listening to the debate today. The hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls), who is a doughty fighter--a shock trooper for Thatcherism in his time--gave us a history of the link. He said that it would be a good time to consider restoring the earnings link and that, because the Tories' economic legacy was so good, we could now afford it. What a cheek from the party that abolished the link in the first place. That was opportunism from the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Gentleman did not mention the £8 billion cost of restoring the earnings link and said nothing about how his sums would add up--particularly when the shadow Chancellor has already announced £8 billion in tax cuts. We know that the Tories plan £16 billion worth of cuts from our spending plans, yet the hon. Gentleman proposes to spend another £8 billion. I am not sure how much will end up in the national insurance fund when the Tories are through with it. However, there seems to be a lot of billions floating around for people to spend as they think fit.

This debate has come far too early this week for it to be meaningful. The Government have spent £6.5 billion more on pensioners over this Parliament than would have been spent under Tory spending plans. The key point is that half of that has gone to the poorer pensioners who were in poverty as a result of the Tory legacy. In those 18 years, pensioners' income distribution was stretched. Many pensioners did far better in that period because of

6 Nov 2000 : Column 80

occupational pensions and the original SERPS. There was a 64 per cent. increase in real terms in pensioners' incomes but, when we look at the details, we see that the income distribution stretched and that there was a huge increase in pensioner inequality. Given the structure of pensioner incomes that we inherited as a result of the Tories' ideology, we had to address pensioner poverty and the bottom end of income distribution first. This is what we have done with the minimum income guarantee.

There are those who may quibble with the minimum income guarantee, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn). But I say to them, "Please help pensioners who are eligible for the guarantee to claim it. You can have your own opinion of it but, on average, those who claim successfully are £20 a week better off. Your constituents who are eligible but not claiming will thank you for helping them to make a claim, rather than for rubbishing the system."

Mr. Simon Hughes: Will the Minister give way?

Angela Eagle: No, I do not have long enough. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is helping his pensioners to claim the guarantee.

The key thing this week is the Chancellor's statement on Wednesday. To those who have been making pleas and looking at the structure of expenditure and the Government's record, all I will say is, "Wait for Wednesday to see how we will fulfil our promises to Britain's pensioners."

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 38, Noes 280.

Division No. 317
[7.7 pm


AYES


Allan, Richard
Ballard, Jackie
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David
(Somerton & Frome)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Livsey, Richard
Llwyd, Elfyn
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Sanders, Adrian
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Webb, Steve
Willis, Phil

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Tom Brake and
Sir Robert Smith.


NOES


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Butterfill, John
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
(Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, Mike
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McIsaac, Shona
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr Desmond
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Don Touhig and
Mr. David Jamieson.

Question accordingly negatived.

6 Nov 2000 : Column 82

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):--

The House divided: Ayes 266, Noes 81.


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