Pensioners should not be forced to shoulder the financial burden in the country’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, Sir Keir Starmer has told i.
The Labour leader insisted that while young people are at the greatest risk of economic harm from the pandemic, it should not fall on the older generation to foot the bill.
Sir Keir said both young and old had made “extraordinary sacrifices” during the crisis, highlighting the “spirit of national solidarity”, which he described as “inspiring”.
He added: “After this crisis, we need to ensure that those who have suffered the biggest impact are properly supported. But I don’t think that needs to come at the expense of others.”
His comments will be seen as a warning shot to the Tories as Chancellor Rishi Sunak is contemplating breaking the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to protect the “triple lock” on increases to the state pension in a bid to save the Treasury billions.
Officials are concerned the pensions bill could rocket once wages recover from the pandemic in 2021, as the triple lock ensures state pensions are based on average wage rises.
While Sir Keir suggested pensioners should not be punished in the economic recovery, he raised grave concerns over the future of young people in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and warned little was being done by ministers to support them.
“An entire generation is facing disruption and lack of opportunities long after this pandemic has ended,” he said. “Coronavirus, whilst having an impact across society, has affected young people in specific ways that have not all been addressed by the Government’s schemes.”
The former director of public prosecutions also criticised Downing Street’s performance in dealing with the health crisis and warned it was in danger of repeating its mistakes with the economic recovery.
“I am increasingly worried that the slow and confused health response to coronavirus is being followed by a slow and confused response to saving jobs,” Sir Keir said. “Young people are particularly exposed to the looming jobs crisis. More than a third of 18 to 24 year olds are already earning less than before the outbreak.”
He also urged ministers to think “more creatively” about accessing space for schools to allow more children to return to the classroom. “This has been a major blind spot and our children are paying the price,” he added.
During a broadcast round, Sir Keir attacked Boris Johnson for failing to take responsibility for the failure to get more pupils back in school.
“Responsibility isn’t with the civil service, responsibility is with the Prime Minister to get our schools open,” he told Sky News.
“He should have set up a task force, he should have led from the front. Get the relevant players around the table – the trade unions and local authorities, the Government department – and have a clear plan in place.”
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