Rishi Sunak has dodged a commitment to include the pensions ‘triple lock’ in the next Tory election manifesto.
The Prime Minister now risks a backlash from his own MPs who will worry about turning off older voters in the general election.
It comes amid reports ministers could consider a cut to benefits ahead of voters going to the polls, to free up funds for Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to offer tax cuts.
Asked about the so-called triple lock, which mandates that state pensions must increase annually by whichever is highest of inflation, earnings growth or 2.5 per cent, Sunak said he was “not going to speculate” on what would be included in the party’s election pledges.
Speaking at the G20 summit in New Delhi, the Prime Minister told the Financial Times: “We’re not going to speculate on the election manifesto now.
“I’ve got plenty to get on with between now and then. But the triple lock is the government’s policy and has been for a long time.”
Sunak’s comments come after work and pensions secretary Mel Stride said in June that the pledge would “almost certainly” be included in the document, ahead of an election which must be held before January 2025, saying there was a “particular duty” to protect the elderly.
In 2010 the coalition government brought in the triple lock, in an attempt to cut pensioner poverty, and since then retirees’ incomes have generally risen above workers’ wages.
But recent steep wage rises could see the Treasury forced to impose an eight per cent increase to the state pension following a 10.1 per cent rise this year due to inflation.
Think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that the lock could pile £45bn a year on to the welfare bill by 2050, adding pressure to bring forward raising the retirement age from 66 to 67, expected to come between 2026 and 2028.