Saturday, 17th April 2010
Dear Mrs N.........
I am writing on behalf of David Cameron to thank you for your letter of 11th April 2010.
We are grateful to you for taking the time and trouble to get in touch and for including the attached newspaper clippings, which have been carefully noted. Although it is obviously difficult to comment on someone's individual situation, we certainly understand your concern about reports of this kind.
We believe in a fair and equitable system for everyone and at the moment, Britain is facing a massive jobs crisis, with almost 2.5 million people unemployed, another 2.6 million people on Incapacity Benefit, and one in five young people unable to find a job. In order to meet this challenge we have published our plan to Get Britain Working, including a comprehensive programme of welfare reform designed to tackle the jobs crisis and break the cycle of long term benefit dependency that has grown under this Government.
On the issue of pensions, those who have contributed to our nation over the years need to have security in their retirement and old age - it should be a time for people to look forward to, not worry about.
When Labour came to power in 1997, Britain had one of the best pension systems in Europe. Millions of people were saving prudently for their retirement. Gordon Brown betrayed them, robbing them of security in retirement through his £100 billion stealth tax raid on their pension funds. What's more, Labour's system of means-testing is an insult to the dignity of older people. Many pensioners miss out on the benefits that they are entitled to because of the complicated system Gordon Brown has put in place.
We can't go on like this. As our population grows older, we need change if we are to give people security and dignity in old age. Our approach is based on our belief in responsibility - we should encourage people to take more control over their lives.
We know how frustrated pensioners are. We know that they have been told many times before that the pension will be linked with earnings rather than prices - but this is a change a Conservative Government will make. We will restore the link between the basic state pension and average earnings to help stop the spread of means testing.
We can afford this promise because we have made the choice to raise the retirement age to 66 earlier than planned by the Government but starting no earlier than 2016 for men and 2020 for women.
In addition to this, we want to give people more choice over how they deal with their pension savings, more control over their income in retirement, and more peace of mind. A Conservative Government:
• will end the effective obligation to buy an annuity at 75;
• will introduce a new home protection scheme to help stop people having to sell theirhomes to pay for residential care. Under the new voluntary scheme people reaching retirement will have the option to pay a one-off joining fee (that we estimate will be around £8,000) in return for a guarantee that absolutely all fees for permanent residential care would be waived for life;
. will work with local councils to freeze Council Tax for two years; and
• will remove the stigma attached to Council Tax Benefit by re-naming it Council Tax Rebate.
It is also important to be clear on what we would not change. A Conservative Government
• will protect Disability Living Allowance for the over 65s and Attendance Allowance for pensioners;
. will keep the winter fuel allowance;
. will keep free TV licences for pensioners;
. won't cut the state pension;
. won't take away free bus passes for pensioners.
We believe that people deserve to look forward to retirement with confidence, not fear. Pensioners deserve security, dignity and quality of life in their old age. For that to happen, we need change, to link the basic state pension back with earnings and better encourage people to save for their retirement.
We all know that with Labour in charge our country is heading in completely the wrong direction. That is why there is a clear choice at this election between five more years of Gordon Brown's tired government making things worse, or David Cameron and the Conservatives with the energy, leadership and values to get the country moving. I hope you will feel able to join us as we seek to change our country for the better.
Thank you again for writing.
Office of the Rt. Hon David Cameron
If I get a further 'sensible' reply from Gordon Brown I will post it. I am still waiting for a reply from Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats).