Labour has today demanded the Tories scrap plans to introduce means-tested winter fuel payments for pensioners.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, held a joint press conference on Friday to set out how planned changes to benefits for older people unveiled in the Conservative manifesto were putting millions ‘at risk’.
McDonnell said means-testing the benefit rather than making it available for all would mean fewer people will claim what they are entitled to and urged the Conservatives to abandon the policy.
He also highlighted research from the Resolution Foundation, which shows plans to restrict payments to the poorest two million older people entitled to pensions credit.
“I do not want to be in a situation where people do not get the winter fuel allowance they are getting now and as a result of that, this winter will not be able to afford heating bills,” McDonnell said.
“I do not want pensioners to be cold this winter. And I just appeal to the Tories - withdraw it today. Just drop it. It is a bad policy - uncosted and of extreme concern to anyone who has a concern for elderly people in this country.”
Long-Bailey said the Tories were turning their backs on pensioners and that proposals to scrap the triple lock guarantee for pensions and the possibility of raising the state pension age, coupled with changes to winter fuel benefits, would feel like ‘a kick in the teeth’ for millions of older people.
Labour says had the new ‘double lock’ system being proposed by Theresa May have been in place over the last four years, pensioners would have been left at least £330 worse off.
The party also unveiled its latest attack poster - highlighting what it claims is a Tory attack on pensioners and working people.
McDonnell was later asked why he was no longer prepared to ‘swim through vomit’ to oppose welfare cuts - a claim he made during the 2015 leadership election when MPs voted on the government’s welfare bill.
He said: “We don’t need to swim through vomit under a Labour government. We will be walking down a path that ensures we have progress for our country.”
He said Labour had a plan for a reform of the welfare system that would protect the interests of vulnerable people.
The Shadow Chancellor was also quizzed on what he would say to pensioners who remember the IRA bombings who may be concerned about a man who had spoken in the past about the bravery of the IRA.
“I apologise for those words, but I also said no cause is worth an innocent life,” he said.
“No cause is worth an innocent life and I made that explicitly clear. I did everything I possibly could to secure the peace process in Northern Ireland.
“I have apologised for my language but made it absolutely clear that everything I did was about securing peace and no innocent life lost is worth any cause.”