The leader of the Green Party has welcomed the government's announcement of a universal state pension but said that the plans do not go far enough.
Addressing a rally at the National Pensioners' Convention yesterday (27 October), Caroline Lucas emphasised that two million of Britain's pensioners live in poverty. She warned that this figure could increase due to “one of the most regressive budgets this country has even seen”.
Lucas, who leads the Green Party of England and Wales, became the UK's first Green MP when she was elected to represent Brighton Pavilion this year.
"I would like to welcome David Cameron's recent announcement that he is backing longstanding Green Party policy with the introduction of a universal state pension,” said Lucas, “Cameron has promised £140 per week which is still £30 below the poverty line of £170 per week and the level of state pension Greens recommend. But it is a starting point.”
The Green Party's first MP also urged the government to create new jobs with programmes for free insulation for all homes that need it, prioritising pensioners and those in fuel poverty.
Lucas said, “Given that almost one in three older people live in homes with inadequate heating or insulation, making their homes more difficult to heat and/or keep warm, this would deliver real benefits to some of the most vulnerable in society. It would also, of course, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate change.”
The Green leader also urged society to treat longer life “as an opportunity, not a problem”, saying that “older people have the wisdom, skills, experience and time to be of enormous benefit to our society”.
Lucas added, "Pensioners deserve a state pension sufficient to cover their basic needs and enable them to live with pride and dignity. For me, a Citizen's Pension is a citizen's right.”
But she emphasised that funding for the pension must not be at the expense of other support for pensioners, such as winter fuel grants, health care benefits, travel passes and decent social care.
Taking a swipe at the government's priorities, Lucas concluded, “Yes, there will be a price tag attached but the value of something is about much more than what is costs - something the coalition government have failed to realise”.