Jeremy Hunt will not strip winter fuel cash from wealthy pensioners, a Treasury minister said after a senior colleague questioned why the handout should go to the comfortably off.
The Chancellor, who will deliver his autumn statement on Wednesday, will not be touching the payments worth up to £600, junior Treasury minister Gareth Davies said.
His comments came after Government minister John Glen was recorded saying the money could be better spent tackling child poverty.
Mr Glen, who was chief secretary to the Treasury at the time – the second most senior minister in the department after Mr Hunt – also questioned whether the triple lock which guarantees increases in the state pension was sustainable.
The minister, who became the Paymaster General in last week’s reshuffle, was speaking at a Cambridge University Conservatives event last month, The Telegraph reported.
In comments on October 26 obtained by the newspaper in a leaked recording, he said: “I think we also need to come to terms with the fact that the triple lock is very expensive and how sustainable is that going forward in terms of pensions and all the other benefits?
“Because my mother, she’s not very rich but she’s perfectly comfortable. She just texted me today aged 75 to say ‘I’ve just heard about my £500 winter fuel payment’ and I’m just like ‘you don’t need that’.
“But finding a mechanism to try and ration that (the winter fuel payment) is very difficult because our HMRC system will look at household incomes.
“These are the sorts of mechanics of government you’ve got to look at. Is it better if we spent more of that money on child poverty? It probably is. But these are the sorts of things I think we need to look at.”
The Treasury ruled out a change to the winter fuel allowance in the autumn statement, with a spokesman saying: “This is not something we are going to do.”
And Exchequer Secretary Mr Davies told Sky News: “We are not going to be touching the winter fuel allowance.”
Pressed on whether he was ruling out means testing the benefit, the MP replied: “We have no plans to change the winter fuel allowance.
The Paymaster General has suggested stripping some older people of the Winter Fuel Payment.
I’ve written to the Chancellor asking him to clarify whether he is considering this for the Autumn Statement.
Pensioners mustn’t be forced to bear the brunt of Tory economic failure. pic.twitter.com/Yn5eRE7XsV
— Darren Jones MP (@darrenpjones) November 20, 2023
“But we have a strong record of supporting pensioners so we will always stand by our pensioners to ensure they have a dignified retirement and security in retirement.”
Labour’s shadow chief secretary Darren Jones wrote to Mr Hunt, telling him: “Pensioners will be deeply concerned about such speculation, especially ahead of winter, and anxious that their incomes may be under threat from this Government. “