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Mr. Darling: I assume that that is it, Mr. Speaker.

Let me go through the various points raised by the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts). With respect, I think that it is the hon. Gentleman who has lost his way. I recall that this is the man who wanted to get rid of the winter fuel payment. He also wanted to get rid of free television licences, although his policy is now to give them even to people who do not have televisions.

The hon. Gentleman is also the proud owner of a pension reform policy that would require a 14-year-old boy to start saving £10 a week just to buy back his basic state pension. So much for the hon. Gentleman's concern about the basic state pension.

The Labour party has made it abundantly clear that the basic state pension will remain the foundation of pension provision. What is more, following my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's announcement earlier this year, we have guaranteed that the basic state pension will go up by at least £100 a year.

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What the hon. Gentleman is actually saying is that he does not like the minimum income guarantee and the pension credit and, if he were to get into power, he would get rid of them. Let us be clear about that. It would mean that the floor of £100, which we think is the minimum that pensioners should have to live on, would go.

As for pension credit, Conservative Members might come to regret the position that the hon. Gentleman has taken today. The pension credit would mean that a 65-year-old with an occupational pension of £100 a month would receive £60 a month more. If the Tories got back in, that £60 would go.

At the next election, I would love to come out with any Conservative Member as they go canvassing in the evening, knock on the door and tell a 65-year-old with a £100 occupational pension, "If you vote for the Tories, it will cost you 60 quid." It would be a pleasure to accompany any Tory party canvasser on such an expedition.

On housing benefit and council tax benefit, the response that I referred to a moment ago makes it clear that people will not lose out as a result of the pension credit being introduced.

The hon. Gentleman also had something to say about the capital rules. Yes, we have listened to what Age Concern, in particular, has said. It said that, as far as the capital rules are concerned, it would be wrong for pensioners to have to account for every single penny of interest that they might earn. Therefore, as people have asked, we have kept the £6,000 disregard—which we ignore—and we have introduced a far fairer system.

Let me illustrate the difference between us and the scheme that the Tories promoted. If someone has £10,000 in the bank, that person would have been assumed to have an income of £16 a week under the old Tory scheme. Under the simpler, fairer system that we are introducing, that same person would be assumed to have an income of only £8 a week, half what the Tories were assuming. If the hon. Gentleman wants to argue about which system is better, I am happy to have that argument.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the timing of the pension credit. I have made it clear again and again that the pension credit will be introduced from October 2003. That is why the costings are as they are set out.

The hon. Gentleman then went on to talk about employment, but I am not sure whether he is for or against our proposals. He referred to the paper on the problems that we face as a result of people of working age being economically inactive—I am sure that, as a semi- academic, he will look forward to reading it—but he should realise that there is a difference between the Labour Government and the Conservative party. We have introduced policies to deal with what is undoubtedly a major problem. Through Jobcentre Plus and other measures we are systematically getting people back into work who were not in work before.

It is worth reminding the Conservatives about the new deal for young people. More than 300,000 more young people are now in work, double the number that would have been in work had it not been for the measures that we have introduced. The new deal for 25-plus means that nearly 75,000 of that group have gone into work and the new deal for lone parents has led to more than 100,000 of them going into work. None of that would have

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happened if the Conservatives had remained in office. Therefore, I take with a very large pinch of salt what the hon. Gentleman says.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned two other points. First, he said that income support levels are up. Actually, the number of people on income support is lower than it was in May 1997. He was of course including the fact that far more pensioners receive the minimum income guarantee. I will not apologise for the fact that more pensioners now get more money as a result of what we have introduced.

The hon. Gentleman then went on to complain about the complexity of tax credits and the integrated child credit. We are making sure that it is easier for people to obtain the access to the monetary help to which they are entitled. We are getting rid of the high marginal deduction rates, and it is worth remembering that, before the working families tax credit was introduced, many people faced more than 100 per cent. deduction. That has gone as a result of the working families tax credit.

Critically, in respect of the measures that we are introducing today and the child credit, we are making work pay for hundreds of thousands of people for whom it did not pay in the past. We are also making sure that we help families in a way that never ever happened under the Conservative party.

Critically, in relation to the pension credit, we are making sure that 5 million pensioners will get more money to reward their thrift. When one strips away everything that the hon. Gentleman said, the key difference between us and the Conservative party is that we want to make sure that we give all pensioners an increase in their income, that we do far more to combat pensioner poverty and, crucially, that we reward the 5 million or so pensioners in this country who have got nothing for their effort and thrift.

Under the Labour Government and under the pension credit, those pensioners will for the first time get a reward. I am willing to bet that that is another position that the hon. Gentleman has got himself into where it will not be too long before his Back Benchers come to him to say, "I think perhaps you ought to rethink your position because, once again, you've got it very, very wrong."

Mr. Steve Webb (Northavon): As another semi-academic, I thank the Secretary of State for his courtesy in making the statement.

On integrated child credit, will the right hon. Gentleman clarify the position of a two-earner couple, both on £20,000 a year who at present get a full child credit, who, when their incomes are added together, might get next to nothing? Those people do not know what their incomes will be the year after next. Will the Secretary of State tell them?

On pension credit, what computers underlie that complicated system? Will the Secretary of State confirm that his Department's spending on computers to run pensioner benefits has risen sevenfold, from £57 million to £432 million? Given that he will not tell us in written parliamentary answers why that has happened, will he tell us on the Floor of the House? Has it anything to do with the pension credit, perhaps?

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the pension credit is far more complicated to claim than the basic state pension? Is it not inevitable that a complicated benefit is

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less likely to be taken up than a straightforward benefit? Given that half a million people already fail to claim the safety net benefit—the poverty line benefit—will he confirm that he expects the take-up rate for the pension credit to be higher than it is for the minimum income guarantee? Is he confident that the proportion of those who claim their entitlement to the benefit will be higher—yes or no?

Finally, given that the pension credit is so straightforward, perhaps the Secretary of State can tell me one thing: how much pension credit will a single pensioner on a basic pension with an occupational pension of £40 be entitled to receive?

Mr. Darling: On the hon. Gentleman's last question, I can help by referring him to the excellent publication "The Pension Credit", which I presume he received with my draft statement. It has an extremely helpful table in the back which shows exactly how much someone gets for every pound of saving. I strongly commend it to him.

Mr. Webb: How much?

Mr. Darling: Being an academic, the hon. Gentleman should not be too hard on himself. He is after all, as we are constantly reminded in the Order Paper every day, a professor. If he cares to look at some of the evidence, he will see exactly how much someone can get from the pension credit.

The hon. Gentleman asked about computers. I will deal with that, although I cannot for the life of me understand what it has to do with the policy on pension credit. As I have told the House before, the Department for Work and Pensions computer systems are for the most part 20 to 30 years old. They are antiquated and in sore need of investment. We got that investment last year in the current spending review, which is why the figures in our departmental estimate for replacing the computers have increased. In our first term in office, just after the Conservatives had been in power, the money was not allocated to us. From this year, we have the money. We must replace the information technology systems. If we do not, they will be obsolete in about three or four years time. I understand why the hon. Gentleman, as a Liberal and a professor, would raise such a point, but it does not have much to do with the pension credit.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the complexity of the system. He will know, because he does know something about this, that the calculations behind the basic state pension are complex because of the contributions and the rest. As I said, it is the foundation of pension provision and it is important. The concept of pension credit is also straightforward. It does two things. It provides a floor beneath which pensioner incomes should not fall. If someone has a pension of less than £100, from 2003, we will top it up to £100. On top of that, we will reward their second pension or their savings, as the case may be.

I gave the example to the Conservatives and I will give it to the Liberals because it looks as if they will be knocking on doors with the same message—that they, too, will take away the pension credit. If they knock on the door—perhaps in the hon. Gentleman's constituency—of

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someone who is 65 with an occupational pension of £100 a month, that individual will receive £60 a month on top under the pension credit. The Conservatives and the Liberals will no doubt be fighting on the doorstep to persuade that person to vote for them on the grounds that they will remove £60 a month. There will, of course, be three of us on the doorstep, because I mean to be there to listen to the argument.

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