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Daisy Cooper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, has defended the state pensions triple lock and said she does not believe that it leads to “intergenerational injustice”.
Neither the Conservatives or Labour have committed to keeping the triple lock in its current form after the next general election, which guarantees that the state pension rises in line with the highest figure out of average earnings, inflation or 2.5 per cent.
The annual cost of the state pension is already over £95bn each year – equivalent to around an eighth of all taxes raised by government – and pensions could rise by 8.5 per cent next April due to a rise in average earnings, having already increased by 10.1 per cent in April of this year.
The current state pension age in the UK is 66, but with an ageing population, this threshold is likely to increase in coming decades – meaning it could be more than 50 years before those currently in their 20s can claim state pension themselves.
Cooper, the MP for St Albans and deputy leader of the Lib Dems, told PoliticsHome she does not believe the triple lock creates intergenerational tension by prioritising older generations over young people, and argued that protecting the triple lock now will benefit young people in the future.
“I simply don’t buy this argument which is sometimes peddled that there’s somehow this intergenerational injustice,” she said.
“The fact is that if you are a young person and you are struggling to earn a decent wage, to get on the housing ladder, and to pay your rent… the idea that we’re going to scrap the triple lock which might give you security in your older age, I think is absolutely crazy.
“It’s the right thing to do for pensioners of today, and I think it’s the right thing to do for the young people who will become pensioners in the future.”
A report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies this month found that keeping the triple lock could add £45bn a year to the welfare bill by 2050 and increase the likelihood of the government increasing the minimum retirement age.
Some organisations, including the Intergenerational Foundation research charity, argue that the high spending on pensions has created a huge net gap between spending on young people and spending on old people – and that by preserving the triple lock, younger people will pay the cost through higher taxes.
“I don’t think there is a tension here because it is entirely possible to help pensioners and to help young people at the same time,” Cooper insisted.
“The Liberal Democrats do want to keep the triple lock, because it’s the right thing to do. The reason it was introduced was because there were millions of pensioners who were living in poverty, and there are still millions of pensioners who are struggling to get by, who are struggling to put the heating on, struggling to pay for that food.”
Cooper said that while the party was committed in its support of the triple lock, it also has “a number of different long-standing policies” to help young people, including advocating for windfall tax on big oil and gas companies in order to bring energy prices down, campaigning in favour of social housing and home insulation schemes, and putting protections in place for longer term leases to help younger people struggling to rent.
“There’s a number of different long-standing policies that we’ve had to help young people, but you don’t help young people by pushing pensioners into poverty again,” she said.
As the Liberal Democrats look forward to their party conference starting this weekend in Bournemouth, Cooper said she thinks young people are particularly worried about mental health and the climate crisis – issues which will be at the forefront of the party’s conference agenda.
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