Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative): My hon. Friend is making a sensible and thoughtful speech and some important points. The Honourable Member for Leeds West prayed in aid changes made by Sir Winston Churchill 87 years ago. However, the numbers qualifying then for any sort of pension, let alone an age-related one, were minuscule compared with the numbers qualifying today and in decades to come.
Mark Field: My hon. Friend was absolutely right when he said earlier that we have collectively been living well beyond our means. That over-consumption by today’s Britons, including today’s pensioners, will have to be paid for by generations to come, and that cannot be justifiable. Given the interventions on him from the Opposition, does he agree that we made it clear before the election in our manifesto that we would maintain intact all the universal benefits—in particular, TV licences, the winter fuel costs and a lot of the travel allowances, along with a significant number of other pension-related benefits—that we have been true to our word and that we will remain so for the rest of this Parliament?
Mark Field: I thank my hon. Friend. I entirely agree with what she said about the importance of promoting enterprise.
It was suggested earlier that 14,000 millionaires would benefit from the tax reduction. I am not sure how Labour Members arrived at that figure, but surely the notion that all our problems could somehow be solved if the rich paid their way is the nub of the issue. Given the relative scarcity of rich people in comparison with the vast majority of the electorate and as a proportion of the United Kingdom’s population of over 60 million, it is an absolute myth that we could solve all our problems by imposing heavy taxes on bankers and other rich people.
Mark Field: It cannot be bad that a U-turn should come so quickly. Seriously, however, I wanted to make the point that there are some very poor pensioners in my constituency—it is more socially mixed than many colleagues might imagine—and they are suffering greatly. However, the message I get from many of my pensioner constituents is that they worry for their grandchildren. They worry about their opportunities and about the difficulties they will face in getting on the housing ladder and in having the quality of life that their grandparents perhaps took for granted. Many of my pensioner constituents understand my hon. Friend’s point that the burden of getting the deficit down must be shared across the generations.