Rishi Sunak hints he will not abandon triple lock pensions pledge

Rishi Sunak has come under increasing pressure from his own side to ensure pensions rise in line with soaring inflation.
Rishi Sunak has come under increasing pressure from his own side to ensure pensions rise in line with soaring inflation. Credit: AP

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hinted he will protect the triple lock promise to give pensioners an inflation-proof pay rise in the coming Autumn Statement.

Speaking ahead of Thursday's budget, Mr Sunak said he understood the challenges of pensioners who were "always at the forefront of my mind".

The PM declined to be drawn into any specifics on the question of the future of the pensions triple lock in Thursday's statement.

Mr Sunak said his government will put "fairness and compassion at the heart of all the decisions" as it attempts to fix a black hole in public finances.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will deliver his Autumn Statement next week Credit: PA

The Tory manifesto in 2019 committed to the triple lock, which guarantees the state pension will increase in line with average earnings, inflation, or 2.5% - whichever is higher.

State pensions and benefits increased by 3.1% this year, after the triple lock was temporarily suspended for a year during the pandemic.

“I can’t comment on any specific policy four or five days before the financial statement but fairness and compassion will be at the heart everything we do," Mr Sunak said.

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But with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt considering up to £35 billion of “fiscal tightening”, any extra spending would leave more severe savings and higher tax hikes required elsewhere.

Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt are currently mulling whether to raise state pensions and benefits in line with inflation, as they consider imposing up to £60 billion in tax rises and spending cuts in the autumn budget on November 17.

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Raising state pensions and benefits with soaring inflation could cost a combined £11 billion next year but would prevent a rebellion from some Tory MPs and avert at least some criticism of the challenging decisions being unfair.Speaking enroute to the G20 in Indonesia, Mr Sunak said: “My track record as chancellor shows I care very much about those pensioners, particularly when it comes to things like energy and heating because they are especially vulnerable to cold weather.“That’s why when I announced support earlier this year as chancellor we made extra provision for pensioners to receive up to £300 alongside their winter fuel payments to help them cope with energy bills over the winter.

“So I am someone who understands the particular challenge of pensioners. They will always be at the forefront of my mind.“Conservative governments have got a good track record of protecting pensioners and, in fact, the state pension today is about £700 higher than it otherwise would be as a result of the triple lock.“I can’t comment on any decisions, and it’s not about the triple lock it’s about anything, days before a financial statement.

Liz Truss sacked her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng before then resigning herself Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

“But, as I said, we will put fairness and compassion at the heart of all the decisions we make and I am confident people will see that next Thursday.”

Members of Mr Sunak’s Cabinet, including Michael Gove, have previously warned against walking back on the manifesto commitment of maintaining the pensions “triple lock” as inflation soars past 10%.

Mr Sunak will meet with his Cabinet on Tuesday as he seeks to find departmental savings.

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