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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 21:45 GMT 22:45 UK
Barbara Castle: Pensioners' champion
Baroness Castle
Baroness Castle has died at home at the age of 91
Her body may have been frail - but Baroness Castle retained her political ferocity right into her 90s.

Although she became a life peer in 1980, Baroness Castle continued to berate both New Labour and the Conservatives for what she saw as a lack of commitment to pensioners and the disabled.

And when she returned to the UK political scene after her time in Europe, Baroness Castle pursued her cause with vigour - regularly embarrassing Tony Blair.

To the delight of supporters both young and old, she fearlessly launched withering attacks on the Labour leadership at party conferences, and anywhere else a platform was available.


I get so cross at this suggestion that people who have contributed all their lives to the basic pension are trying to scrounge on the taxpayer

Baroness Castle

Delegates at the 1999 conference booed as chairman Vernon Hince ordered Baroness Castle off the podium during a storming 10-minute speech in which she savaged ministers for fixing state pensions to inflation rather than earnings.

"This means a pension increase of 72p - a fair price for a bag of peanuts," she told them.

Baroness Castle later went on the radio to accuse the prime minister of delivering a "mishmash of moralising".

"I get so cross at this suggestion that people who have contributed all their lives to the basic pension are trying to scrounge on the taxpayer," she explained.


Barbara helped to raise the concerns of Britain's elderly to the very top of the political agenda

National Pensioners Convention president Rodney Bickerstaffe

"What worries me is that the government keeps on saying that the basic pension is to be the foundation of security for everybody - but that is shrivelling in value in relation to the national income by the government's refusal to restore the link with the movement of earnings, which I introduced as a minister in 1974."

National Pensioners Convention president Rodney Bickerstaffe said on Friday: "Barbara helped to raise the concerns of Britain's elderly to the very top of the political agenda.

"For that, and for the kind of society she stood for, she will be missed by millions of ordinary people."

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