It seems likely that Ros Altmann’s comments were made to put the idea into the public domain and see how people take to it.
The Tories have had a lot of success in claiming services are “unaffordable” – despite most of their claims being lies, or based on variable conditions (everything they have cut would have been affordable if they had not also been determined to cut taxes for the very rich; there is also the issue of whether they want the country at large to have benefits that are enjoyed by the rich).
For now, pensioners are on notice: They are on the Tory list, and 2020 isn’t very far away.
As Labour’s Debbie Abrahams said yesterday: “Just months ago the Tories went to the country on a solemn promise to protect pensioners, saying their ‘triple lock’ was guaranteed, that people could trust them, now we hear they’re considering dumping it.
“Make no mistake, this would be a grand betrayal – a shocking broken promise hitting pensioners in the pocket.
“The lesson here is that for all their words about doing the right thing, the Tories don’t stand up for ordinary people.”
Downing Street has promised that Theresa May will stick to the Tory manifesto pledge of the triple lock, which guarantees rises in the state pension, after a former pensions minister said it would become unaffordable after 2020.
Ros Altmann, who left the government in July, called for the mechanism to be abolished and suggested that the prime minister could be more open to this idea than her predecessor, David Cameron.
A No 10 spokeswoman quickly dismissed the possibility of there being any risk to the triple lock before the next general election. “The manifesto contains a commitment to protect the triple lock. That commitment still stands,” she said.
Lady Altmann had warned that the cost of keeping the safeguard would be “enormous” after the election in 2020.
The Conservative peer and pensions expert said she tried last year to persuade Cameron to drop the triple lock, under which pensions go up by the inflation rate, the growth in average earnings or 2.5%, whichever is the highest.
“The triple lock is a political construct, a totemic policy that is easy for politicians to trumpet, but from a pure policy perspective, keeping it for ever doesn’t make sense,” Altmann told the Observer.
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