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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Angry OAPs boo pensions minister
Stephen Timms
Stephen Timms said Labour had improved pensions
Angry OAPs booed and slow handclapped new Pensions Minister Stephen Timms during his speech to the 13th annual pensioners' parliament in Blackpool.

The minister, appointed after the general election, had to pause his address to the event attended by about 2,000 pensioners from across the UK.

A National Pensioners Convention (NPC) report this week said one in five OAPs lived below the poverty line.

Mr Timms said they received 1,500 more a year on average than in 1997.

The state pension currently stands at 82.05 for a single person and 131.20 for a couple, with the average annual income to pensioner households 12,400.

The government had also introduced benefits including free TV licences and winter fuel allowances, Mr Timms said.

'No improvement'

The NPC's "Age Audit", based on government figures, reported that one in five pensioners living below the poverty line represented no improvement on when Labour came to power eight years ago.

The report said a further 1.5 million pensioners were malnourished or at serious risk of malnourishment.

The same number said their house was too cold in winter, with 22,000 dying as a result of cold last year, the report said.

The NPC has called for a pensioners' charter guaranteeing a decent income - with the state pension linked to average earnings - and a warm and comfortable home.

Mr Timms said in his speech that the government could not restore the link between average earnings and the state pension because it might not be sustainable.

The challenge of the UK's ageing population was how to provide reasonable pensions without taxing the working population too heavily, he said.

The government has set up a Pensions Commission, due to report later this year.

The three-day pensioners' parliament is also due to discuss healthcare, council tax and transport.

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