Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green today was unable to say which pensioners would lose their winter fuel allowance if the Tories won the election.
In an intense grilling on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning, the Tory Cabinet Minister said the party would only decide who would lose the benefit – worth up to £300 to some households – after the June 8 vote.
Green also flatly ruled out any chance of a u-turn on controversial changes to how social care is funded.
Under the plans – set out in the party’s manifesto last week – elderly people with savings and assets worth more than £100,000 will have to pay for their care.
Green also clashed with Labour’s John McDonnell, with the Shadow Chancellor accusing the Work and Pensions Secretary of making “quite a profit” out of the water industry through his time as a director of South East Water.
But it was the scrutiny of the Tories’ manifesto that proved the most uncomfortable for Green, with Marr pointing out that pensioners voting on June 8 would have no idea if a Conservative government would take away some of their benefits.
Green replied that pensioners would have to wait for the result of a consultation after the election, as “that’s how a government should operate.”
After citing Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger as an example of a wealthy pensioner who receives the benefit, Green said: “We will consult so that everyone who is in genuine need of the winter fuel payment will still get it.
“But we think the money that’s currently being spent on people who need it less, many of whom have come up and said to me over the years ‘really, should I be getting this, that money is better spent in a social care system that we all agree is one of the great challenges facing our country.
Marr also grilled Green on why the Tory Party had spent time producing costings of Labour’s manifesto, but its own programme for Government provided such little detail on how services would be paid for.
Green said: “The difference between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party is we produce realistic policies to deal with the real problems of this country, some of which raise money, some of which spend.”
When asked where the Tories were going to find extra £8billion promised for the NHS, Green suggested it would not be new cash, and said: “A lot of is retargeted money from within the system”
Since the Tories’ social care policy was announced on Thursday, a number of groups have attacked the plans, with the National Pensioners Convention accusing the Conservatives of offering the “worst of all possible worlds” with the proposals.
When asked by Marr today if the Conservatives were going to look again at the plans in light of the reaction, Green was defiant.
“No,” he said.
He continued: “What we said in the manifesto incidentally, to put that ‘no’ in context, is that we have set out this policy which we’re not going to look at again, there will be a green paper covering both social care and health coming out in the summer, because we all know that the long term solution to the social care crisis is better integration of the NHS and social care. That’s the aim of our policy, this is the first step along that road.”