PENSIONERS should be means-tested for benefits such as a free bus pass and winter fuel allowance, according to Grantham MP Nick Boles.
His comments during a keynote speech given to the think-tank Resolution Foundation on Tuesday have caused uproar both locally and nationally, and will affect a proportion of the 12,700 over-65s in the Grantham area.
In the speech he said that although benefits are “vitally important” for some pensioners, “does anyone here think it would be responsible for a country in our financial position to go on giving a free TV licence to Michael Winner, free prescriptions to Lord Sugar and a winter fuel allowance to Sir Paul McCartney?”
Mr Boles, elected as the MP for Grantham in the last general election, proposed that better-off pensioners be refused a free bus pass, free prescriptions and a winter fuel allowance to help with heating bills. Free TV licences for richer over-75s would also be scrapped.
He believes that cuts to benefits for well-off elderly people would save the country £1.5 billion a year, and defended his comments to the Journal this week.
Admitting that the Government is “takng away a lot from a lot of other people” he said the elderly must accept their fair share of the cuts.
He added: “Younger people have been asked to make a bigger sacrifice.”
When the news broke on the Journal website on Tuesday, comments came flooding in, some in support of his proposals and some furious with the idea of cutting help for elderly people.
Mr Boles admitted that he too has received a large number of angry e-mails, adding that he realises his words are “unpopular”.
He said: “I accept that it is controversial and I accept how difficult it is and how unpleasant and unwelcome it would be for many people.
“The main point I would make is I represent a lot of pensioners in Grantham and Stamford, and it strikes me that almost all of them are usually coming to me about the situation or the future for their kids and grand-kids. They’re worried about the world their children and grandchildren are growing up in.
“My argument is that I’m afraid that the only way we are going to be able to help their kids and grand-kids get good jobs and have the skills to become more productive is if we take money away from people that don’t need it as much.”
Frankie Pearson, 82, called the Journal on Tuesday, concerned by the MP’s suggestions.
Mrs Pearson, from Lenton, said: “You’ve got to be honest about this. There are quite a number of pensioners that really don’t need benefits but, having said that, they have worked all their lives and really they are entitled to it.
“Years ago work was hard and it isn’t so hard today. And there are so many more things that make work so much easier.
“They have grown up through wars and all sorts of things that people these days haven’t been confronted with.
“I think we all deserve it.”
Prime Minister David Cameron was challenged over Mr Boles’ proposals during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. He ruled out such cuts before the next general election in 2015 but refused to rule out including them in the next manifesto.
* SEE TODAY’S JOURNAL FOR REACTION TO THE COMMENTS MADE BY MP NICK BOLES.