Rishi Sunak has said pensioners are “at the forefront of my mind” in a possible hint state pensions will rise in line with soaring inflation.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are considering imposing up to £60 billion in tax rises and spending cuts in Thursday’s autumn budget, but could avoid real-terms cuts on pensions.
Members of Mr Sunak’s Cabinet including Michael Gove have previously warned against going back on the 2019 manifesto commitment of maintaining the pensions “triple lock” as inflation soars past 10%.
Speaking to reporters travelling with him to Indonesia for the G20 summit, 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.”
He declined to comment on any specifics in the financial statement, but stressed that “we will put fairness and compassion at the heart of all the decisions we make”.
Protecting the triple lock on pensions would likely usher in deeper public spending cuts elsewhere and higher tax rises.
The 2019 Tory manifesto committed to the triple lock, which guarantees the state pension will increase in line with the highest figure of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%.
State pensions and benefits increased by 3.1% this year, after the triple lock was temporarily suspended for a year.
Mr Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss had promised to retain the triple lock during her brief stint at No 10.
Ms Truss had also planned supply side reforms and the liberalisation of planning rules in her quest for economic growth.
Asked whether he will push ahead with those plans, Mr Sunak promised “an approach to planning that ensures that we get homes built in the places that we need them to be built, bring communities along with us on that.
“With regards to supply side reform, I think there’s lots we can do – not just planning, freeports are a good example of that, the labour markets are another opportunity, regulation when it comes to technology and innovation, there’s a bill going through parliament on gene editing, or financial services.”