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Portillo: Conservatives launch manifesto for pensioners

Speaking in Westminster, Shadow Chancellor, the Rt. Hon Michael Portillo, launched the Conservative Party's manifesto for pensioners:

"Today we are launching our manifesto for pensioners.

"We want to give pensioners dignity. We want to make the tax system simpler and fairer for older people. And we want to encourage people to do the right thing during their working lives, and to feel when they retire that they were rewarded for doing the right thing.

"We think it is better if pensioners are left with more of their own money to spend as they wish, rather than rely on Gordon Brown's complicated means-tested benefits and credits which are paid for by the stealth taxes he's imposed on the poorest in society.

"We have announced a number of tax cutting measures which do just that. At present a million pensioners have to pay tax on very small amounts of earnings. Such amounts are piffling for the state but they mean a lot to the pensioners who have to pay them. Such a situation discourages savings and draws people into means testing quite unnecessarily.

"That is why we have said that by 2003-04 we will take 1 million of pensioners out of tax altogether by increasing the Age-Related Personal Allowance for those over 65 by £2000. Many more pensioners will gain £440 a year, or £8.50 a week from these plans.

"Our plan to abolish taxes on savings and dividends, except at the higher rate will also benefit many pensioners and once again reward them for putting away their hard earned money.

"We want to make it worth people's while to save and build up a pension fund during their working lives, because they can be confident that they won't be penalised for doing so when they retire. We will end the compulsory requirement to purchase an annuity at aged 75 with the whole of ones pension fund. Those with personal pensions and money purchase occupational pensions will only need to ensure that they have sufficient income to keep them off means tested benefits.

"We also know that for many pensioners their car is their lifeline. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity for their independence. Yet Labour have hiked up the tax on our petrol making it the most expensive in Europe.

"Conservatives realise that many pensioners either choose or have to use their cars. We understand that older people find it difficult to walk long distances to catch public transport. That is one reason why we will cut fuel tax by 6p a litre - 27p a gallon.

"Under Labour's vision for the future, by 2003 over half of pensioners will be forced to endure the indignities of the means test.

"Under our vision pensioners will retain their independence and get to keep more of their own money.

"In place of the dependency society we will encourage a responsible society".

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