protesters call for end to means testing
By Victoria Ward, The Independent
took to the streets in protest when the Government's controversial
Pensions Credit scheme was introduced yesterday, claiming it should be
replaced by an increase in the basic pension.
say half of
by a piper, the 100-strong crowd marched from
Wicks, the Pensions Minister, was jeered when he addressed a meeting
organised by the National Pensions Convention. "Today sees the
introduction of a Pension Credit scheme," he said. "Let us do
our best to make sure that every elderly person eligible has the
opportunity to secure it. I am going to take up a target of 100 per cent
and I want everyone to claim it." He said that 1.3 million people
will be better off as a result of Pension Credit, and to heckles of
"tax the rich", he said there was no other way for pensioners to
be better off.
a socialist my particular responsibility is to help the poorer people
rather than the rich," he said. "The fact is we all know that
there are some pensioners with very good occupational pension schemes and
there are some pensioners, often women, who are poorer and never got the
chance for such a pension scheme."
claimed that since 1997 the increase in the basic pension had gone up
"one hell of a lot" and pointed to various other new schemes for
the elderly, such as winter fuel payments and free television licences. He
added: "You do not represent all pensioners. I've got to listen to
the silent voices, the people who are not here, the over 80-year-olds for
example and those who need our resources. John Cryer, Labour MP for
Hornchurch, attacked the Tories' plan to reinstate the link between basic
state pensions and average earnings.
always believed in universal benefits and that's partly why I came into
politics," he told the pensioners. "The fact that the Tories
have made this announcement, I would treat with a great deal of suspicion.
They will inevitably rob that money from other areas.
want to see public spending in this country going up - this will not
happen if the Tories get back into power. They believe in the law of the
jungle and nothing else."
Wicks said that the announcement was "opportunistic and ill
White, 77, from
told Mr Wicks not to "try to be Robin Hood" but to make his
first priority to make the benefit system right, to listen and to do