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Hague: Conservatives will Lower Tax for Pensioners

Last week we announced that the next Conservative Government will abolish taxes on savings. Our first tax reduction was specifically aimed at helping lower and basic rate income tax payers; those hard-working people hit hardest by Labour's stealth taxes who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

Today we continue in that vein. We will help older people on modest incomes to become more independent. They will keep more of what they earn so that fewer of them will have to depend on the state.

Michael Portillo will take you through the details of our next step towards creating the Responsible Society in a moment. But first I want to explain why we have chosen to help pensioners.

It has become fashionable to disparage measures targeted at pensioners, as if people aged 65 and over have priorities that are somehow out of step with the rest of the population.

This attempt to marginalise and belittle those of my parents' generation who have done so much to build this country ranks as one of the worst aspects of Tony Blair's 'New Britain'. A Conservative Britain will lift one million pensioners out of taxation altogether.

In Labour's rush to embrace celebrities and pop stars and all things labelled 'modern', they have lumped together and brushed aside millions of people whose hopes and fears and common sense instincts are as deeply felt and as worthy of respect as anyone else's.

First, Labour insulted pensioners with a 75 pence weekly increase to their pension, less than some of their grandchildren receive as pocket money.

Then, they called pensioners 'racist' and their strategists said there was 'no mileage' to be had from listening to older peoples concerns.

Now they plan to sweep more than a half of all pensioners into dependence on means-tested benefits and all the indignity, worry and confusion that comes with them. Well, Conservatives view the older generation differently.

They are men and women who have worked hard to earn the right to some comfort and independence in their later years. They are people, our own parents and grandparents among them, who have devoted a lifetime to supporting their families and who ask for little more than some dignity and respect in return.

So when they talk about the rise in violent crime and the fact that it is no longer safe to walk down the street, we listen.

When they talk about the crisis in the Health Service and the fact that operations are being cancelled after months or sometimes years of waiting, we listen.

When they say they fear for the future of our nation if its independence is undermined and its currency is given away, we listen.

We listen because their concerns are the same as those voiced by people of all ages, they are the concerns of the mainstream majority of this country. They are common sense.

We listen and we also learn. Many pensioners have welcomed the idea of special payments being rolled up into a higher weekly pension, particularly those living in care homes or those without a television. Others have told us that they would rather keep their Winter Fuel allowance and free TV licences. The next Conservative Government will give pensioners the choice.

Today we are going further. Pensioners seek independence and security every bit as much as any other generation and this morning's announcements are designed to foster both.

It is right to help people who pay tax, but it is also right to offer assistance to those who are too poor to pay tax in the first place. So we will offer more security to older pensioners who are often among the least well-off in our society. This morning, David Willetts will announce that we are increasing the basic state pension for those over 75 by more than Labour's planned uprating.

We will encourage independence by offering help to pensioners of all ages who find themselves having to pay tax on relatively modest incomes while at the same time being drawn into the benefit system.

We will begin rolling back the nightmare of paperwork and form-filling created by Gordon Brown by increasing personal allowances for the over 65s and over 75s. This will take a million people out of tax altogether. In the process we will be lifting many of them out of depending on Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

This will hugely reduce the complexity and the costs of running the current system, where people have to fill in a 40 page form to claim the Minimum Income Guarantee or 55 pages to receive Housing Benefit.

Independent estimates show that Gordon Brown is putting 56% of all pensioners on some form of means-tested benefit. This Government has created a Dependency Society. First it takes money the away from people, reduces them to dependency, then finds ever more bureaucratic and demeaning ways to give some of it back in handouts.

The next Government will create a Responsible Society that allows people to keep more of their own money so that fewer people have to look to the state for help in the first place.

The choice could not be clearer.

It is between a Labour Party which talks down to pensioners even as it ignores their concerns, robs them of their dignity and undermines their independence; and a Conservative Party which listens to older people, treats them with respect and does what it can to lift people out of dependency altogether. I'll now hand you over to Michael Portillo who will give you more details of our plans.

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