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Call to strip wealthy OAPs of fuel payout: Former Tory Cabinet minister said it is 'bonkers' to give rich pensioners benefits
02:16 GMT, 28 November 2012
Austerity: Baron Patten said there would be no political backlash if George Osborne was to cut benefits for wealthy pensioners
Winter fuel payments and free TV licences for well-off pensioners should be axed, a former Tory Cabinet minister said last night.
Baron Patten said in a time of austerity there would be no political backlash if George Osborne cut back on the benefits.
Under the present system pensioners can get up to 300 a year in winter fuel allowance, as well as free public transport and a TV licence.
In a debate in the House of Lords, John Patten said: ‘Everyone is austerity aware and people who used to think there were free lunches and free dinners now know that we live in a pretty austere world.
'A time of maximum austerity is the time to get rid of a lot of perks for well-off pensioners which they don’t deserve and don’t need and the better sort of better-off pensioner makes a point of not claiming them – all those TV licences, all those cheap travel, all of those winter fuel arrangements.’
The Tory peer, who was education secretary from 1992 to 1994, added: ‘I do think that now is the time for the Chancellor to get rid of these things.
‘There won’t be any political backlash at all – people think it’s bonkers, it’s barmy to do it, I certainly do. We shouldn’t be in that position.
‘I think the Chancellor, halfway through the Parliament, way ahead of a general election should seize this opportunity.’
But Labour peer Baroness Hollis of Heigham, who is a former work and pensions minister, told him: ‘I only wish we could persuade you to extend your shopping list of things to be remedied to higher rate tax relief and other perks that go presently to incentivise the rich to save as opposed to those who actually perhaps most need help, which are those who are poorer off.’
Replying to the debate, Government spokesman Baroness Stowell of Beeston said she would pass on Baron Patten’s comments to Mr Osborne.
But she added: ‘As on a matter like this my mum may definitely be watching, I would be doing her a great disservice, and be in huge trouble, if I did not say that many of her friends who are pensioners have made the point to me that they feel passionately about their bus passes.
‘I just want to say that one for my mum.’
Cuts: Baron Patten has called for free TV licences and winter fuel payments to be axed for wealthy pensioners (file picture)