Triple lock at risk as Mel Stride admits pledge not sustainable long term

Mel Stride has admitted the state pension triple lock is “not sustainable” in the long term.

The Work and Pensions Secretary insisted the Tories remain committed to the promise until the next general election.

But he cast doubt over the future of the policy – which sees state pensions increase each year by the highest out of earnings, price rises or 2.5 percent – beyond that point.

His comments come after new earnings figures indicated that payments could go up by 8.5 percent next April.

Mr Stride told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “This argument has been around for a long time, and understandably so because the Office for Budget Responsibility, the main independent forecaster, comes forward with the fiscal sustainability report on an annual basis.

“And it casts out 50 years, and it looks at the impact of the increase in the state pension on the triple lock, amongst other issues, and what that does to the parent finances.

“So we’ve known for a long time, that in the very, very long term, you’re absolutely right, it is not sustainable.

“But of course, what I’m dealing with is now and where we stand at the moment, is we remain committed to the triple lock. And that’s the path that we will be taking.

“But as to the future, and after future general elections, and so on and so forth, who knows. But that’s the position we’re in at present.”

Mr Stride refused to confirm that the figure for average earnings including bonuses would be used under the triple-lock formula.

He said: “There clearly is a difference if you take into account the non-consolidated elements of pay in recent times, but these are all decisions that I have to take with the Chancellor as part of a very clear process, a statutory process actually, that I go through in the autumn.

“So I didn’t want me to get into the weeds of exactly how I’m going to go about that. But the overarching point about the triple lock is that we remain committed to it.”

Put to him that he was not ruling out using a lower figure based on earnings without bonuses, around 7.8 percent, he said: “I’m not going to get drawn into those kinds of questions.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said on Tuesday that the Government is committed to the triple lock and a statutory annual review of benefits and state pensions will take place in the autumn.

Downing Street would not confirm whether the 8.5 percent figure will be applied, insisting it cannot get ahead of the “formal process” for uprating which takes place later in the year.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We remain committed to the triple lock and we will ensure that the state pension remains sustainable and fair across generations while providing security and dignity in retirement for millions of people across the country.”

The triple lock was introduced by the Conservative-led coalition government in 2010 as a way of ensuring pensioner income did not lose value in real terms.

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