Question Time Audience Member Burns Tory MP Over 'Pensions Bung For The 1%'

A BBC Question Time audience member has put a Tory MP on the spot over the government’s multi-billion pound pensions giveaway for the wealthy – arguing it’s hard to justify “when there’s people going to food banks”.

It came a day after Jeremy Hunt used his budget to abolish the tax-free cap on the lifetime pensions allowance, as he seeks to boost economic growth by decreasing the number of working-age adults opting to retire.

The chancellor has argued the move, forecast to cost £2.75 billion over the next five years, is needed to ease labour shortages, particularly in the NHS. Labour said it will reverse the “pensions bung for the 1%” if it wins power.

On the flagship BBC politics show, which this week came from Warrington, one man in the audience said he didn’t know how “the government can justify giving tax relief to the top 1% when there’s people going to food banks”.

He added: “People getting this tax relief can already afford to pay over £3,500 a month into the private pension scheme. And yet they’re giving them more and the people who need it most are getting less.”

Presenter Fiona Bruce put this to panellist and Conservative MP Bim Afolami, a former minister, as she pointed out people need “an awful lot of money to be able to benefit from this”.

Afolami tried to argue the policy was “for everybody”. He said: “That’s not true because what we’re doing is we’re removing the cap on the amount of money you can put into your pension. What that means is that this is for everybody.”

When Afolami tried to make the point again, Labour shadow cabinet member Lucy Powell claimed the wealth management sector had called it a “bonanza”, and argued the average lifetime pension pot for most people is £37,000 “not a million or two million”.

She added: “It’s not about the workforce issues for doctors, which could be solved a different way for a lot less money than this. This is about giving a big boon to the top not even 1% – half a percent – who have got the luxury of being able to put away a lot of money.”