Sir Ed Davey has insisted the Liberal Democrats will continue to support the pensions triple lock under any circumstances.
The policy means the state pension has to rise in line with wages, inflation or 2.5% – whichever is higher – each year, with the government taking the decision in the autumn ahead of it being implemented the following April.
The 13-year-old pledge has been back in the news in recent weeks, with a debate raging over whether it is a fair protection for pensioners amid a cost of living crisis, or a costly pledge paid for by struggling working-aged people.
And there are currently questions looming over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt as to whether they will stick to the policy in full or adjust the goalposts to save some cash – though Downing Street has insisted they are committed to the triple lock.
But Sir Ed said it was his party that brought the idea into government and, no matter what, it would continue to have his backing.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips show during his party’s annual conference in Bournemouth, the leader said: “The Liberal Democrats first came up with the triple lock… the Tories weren’t keen on it [but] we introduced it and we think it has been very successful.
“The Conservatives broke the link between pensions and earnings back in 1980. For 30 years, British pensioners fell behind the rest of Europe and we became bottom of the league for the state pension.
“Countries that are much less wealthy than us were paying their pensioners, [still] are paying their pensioners more, so the triple lock from the Liberal Democrats was designed to try to begin to rectify that.”
Sir Ed also said his party would not look to reduce or remove inheritance tax after reports this weekend claimed it was a move being considered by Mr Sunak ahead of the next election.
Also appearing on Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, made his distaste for the tax clear, calling it “particularly punitive and unfair”.
But he said the government is currently in “a fiscal straightjacket”, and the chancellor has already told the press “he doesn’t see room for tax cuts”.
Asked about the Lib Dem position, Sir Ed said: “It is really clear when a Conservative leader is in trouble [as] they reach for the inheritance tax gig. They’ve done it before but they have never delivered on it.
“And I think people reading that should look at the Conservatives’ record on tax. They have raised taxes for people on lower incomes and the idea that they should now be talking about inheritance tax is quite preposterous. It would be a tax cut for the wealthiest.”
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