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Sunday, 24 September, 2000, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Pensions policy 'seen as unfair'
Blair and Prescott
Blair and Prescott agree on the need for action on pensions
Pensioners need to be convinced they are getting a fair deal from the government, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has told the BBC.

He said Labour had done much to help the poorest pensioners but admitted that the 75p a week rise in the basic state pension for those on moderate incomes had not been well received.

The government now had to tackle that perceived unfairness or pay a political price, he suggested on the BBC's On the Record programme.

Their perception is they don't think they are being helped.

John Prescott
Mr Prescott was speaking from Labour's annual conference in Brighton where the party is under pressure from trade unions to improve the lot of the elderly.

The poorest retired people had benefited from minimum income guarantees, free TV licences and winter fuel payments, he insisted.

But he added that the majority "don't think they are being helped".

"Now politicians, even if they believe what they are doing is right, have certainly got to convince the electorate that it is right.

"And all the logic and all the fairness that we will deploy and can deploy in regard to pensions, still has to convince them. And we haven't yet achieved that,"

Mr Prescott echoed the sentiments of Prime Minister Tony Blair who said he would look at raising the basic state pension to 90 per week.

Pensions 'top priority'

Mr Blair said pensions were now the "top priority" with the Labour government but he put himself on collision course with the unions by ruling out a restoration of the link between average earnings and pensions.

Two of the biggest unions, Unison and GMB, said they were pressing ahead with plans to bring forward a motion on the earnings link at the conference later this week.

Pensioners may get a rise to a basic 90 per week
Pensioners may get a rise to a basic 90 per week
But Mr Blair said such a measure could be a fiscal timebomb for future generations.

Mr Blair told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme that the present government could afford a restoration of the link, but the gradual ageing of the population meant that such a measure would be unaffordable 10 to 20 years down the line.

He said: "It would impose a huge additional expense on that future generation and it isn't a responsible thing to do."

But John Edmonds, General Secretary of the GMB, warned Labour that pensions was its "single biggest electoral liability."

Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of the public service union Unison hinted at a possible compromise with the government when he said there would have to be a big increase in the basic state pension if a motion on pensions is not be defeated at the conference on Wednesday.

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See also:

24 Sep 00 | Labour
Blair comes out fighting
24 Sep 00 | Talking Point
Do the elderly get a raw deal?
24 May 00 | UK Politics
Parties electioneer over grey vote
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