A top Treasury minister has been left embarrassed after a recording emerged of him wondering whether welfare to some pensioners should be scrapped in favour of tackling child poverty.
John Glen, who until last Monday’s reshuffle was the second in command at the Treasury, was recorded talking to members of the Cambridge University Conservatives where he made the controversial remarks.
Mr Glen is heard saying: “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 other benefits?”
He cited an example of his own mother, who is “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 [the Winter Fuel Payment] is very difficult… 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.”
The event appeared to take place on October 25 this year.
Last night the Government rushed to deny that Mr Glen had been discussing official policy considerations, with a spokesman telling the Telegraph: “That is not something we are going to do”.
While Mr Glen was moved from the Treasury to the Cabinet Office last week, the recording makes clear that his old department has been debating how affordable the triple lock pension is, and whether pensioner benefits should be cut given the wider cost of living crisis.
The warning came after it emerged the Chancellor is planning to pay out a lower rate in Wednesday’s Autumn statement.
Wage growth figures mean pensioners should be receiving an 8.5 percent increase in their pensions from April.
However Mr Hunt has been considering discounting bonuses, meaning the rise would fall to 7.8 percent and leave pensioners £75 a year worse off than expected.
The move would save around £900 million for the country’s coffers next year.
Winter fuel payment was introduced by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in 1997, and gives between £250 and £600 to those born before 1957.
It’s a universal benefit, meaning all pensioners receive it regardless of their personal financial situation.
Mr Glen refused to comment when approached about the leaked recording yesterday.