Is the pension triple lock SAFE? – Daily Mail

By David Wilcock, Deputy Political Editor For Mailonline
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A senior minister today suggested the elderly will be spared a real-terms pension cut as a rare improvement in the UK’s financial situation raised hopes swingeing spending cuts and tax rises may not be as tough as previously feared.
Nadhim Zahawi hinted that Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt could retain the ‘triple lock’, which was a Tory manifesto pledge, after the PM declined to rule out scrapping it yesterday.
The lock ties increases in the state payout to the rate of inflation, but with the Consumer Price Index at 10.1 per cent last month it could add billions to state spending next year.
Mr Zahawi, the new Tory chairman, told Times Radio that while he could not pre-empt the Autumn Statement on November 17, Mr Sunak, when he was chancellor, ‘always protected the most vulnerable’.
He went on: ‘I am stating the obvious here, but uniquely pensioners cannot add to their income by taking on more work and therefore we have to be clear in how we make sure we help the most vulnerable in our society including those pensioners.’
It comes amid some potential good news on the economy. The PM and Chancellor are said to be considering using falling gas prices and a ‘dullness dividend’ reaped from financial markets after the change in government to rein in their drastic plans.
A new report today by the Resolution Foundation suggests a £40billion black hole in the nation’s finances could have shrunk by up to £15billion by the time they present their delayed Autumn Statement on November 17. This means cuts to public spending could be eased, and tax rises reduced or scrapped altogether.
The forecast has led to growing confidence in Downing Street that only minor changes will be required to public finances, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Gas prices have fallen in recent days thanks to unseasonably warm autumn weather, while the yield on gilts – government bonds – has fallen back following the removal of Liz Truss as PM, meaning borrowing costs for the Government have dropped. 
However, it is not all good news. Ministers have yet to rule out changes to benefit payment rates that would mean recipients face a real-terms cut. The PM has so far refused to confirm that Universal Credit will also increase in line with prices.
Reports today suggest that income tax thresholds could also be frozen. With inflation at 10.1 per cent this means thousands could be dragged into higher brackets, generating up to £4billion for the Treasury, according to The Times.
Nadhim Zahawi hinted today that Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt could retain the ‘triple lock’, which was a Tory manifesto pledge, after the PM declined to rule out scrapping it yesterday
Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt, seen at PMQs in the Commons yesterday, are said to be considering using falling gas prices and a ‘dullness dividend’ reaped from financial markets after the change in government to rein in their drastic plans
A new report today suggests a £40billion black hole in the nation’s finances could have shrunk by up to £15billion by the time they present their delayed Autumn Statement on November 17, meaning cuts to public spending could be eased, and tax rises reduced or scrapped altogether

The new Prime Minister convened his first Cabinet yesterday ahead of his first face-off with Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions
Mr Hunt and Mr Sunak meeting earlier this week. Reports today suggest that income tax thresholds could be frozen
Oil giant Shell added nearly 10 billion dollars in extra profit to its balance sheet today as gas prices remained high.
The business said its adjusted earnings more than doubled to 9.5 billion dollars (£8.2 billion) in the three months to the end of September when compared with the year before.
But profits are down compared with the company’s second quarter, when it made 11.5 billion dollars (£9.9 billion), as the price of oil slowly began to fall after months of multi-year highs due to the war in Ukraine.
Shell is now nine months into what promises to be the company’s most profitable year ever barring an unlikely major collapse in oil and gas prices over the next two months.
The business was already benefiting from a global economy that had reopened after the pandemic and was desperate for energy to fuel its growth.
Then Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine. This pushed European gas prices to all-time highs and the price of oil soared internationally.
The months-long energy crisis led then Chancellor Rishi Sunak in May to introduce a windfall tax on oil and gas companies operating in the North Sea.
But that has not stopped Shell from handing billions of dollars to its shareholders this year.
On Thursday it announced plans to return another four billion dollars (£3.5 billion) to shareholders by buying back shares over the next three months, and said it would also hike the dividend by 15 per cent.
It brings the total payout to Shell shareholders to 26 billion dollars (£22.4 billion) so far this year.

It came as oil giant Shell added nearly ten billion dollars in extra profit to its balance sheet today as gas prices remained high.
The business said its adjusted earnings more than doubled to $9.5 billion (£8.2 billion) in the three months to the end of September, compared with the year before.
But profits are down compared with the company’s second quarter, when it made $11.5 billion (£9.9 billion), as the price of oil slowly began to fall after months of multi-year highs due to the war in Ukraine.
Today it also announced plans to return another $4 billion (£3.5 billion) to shareholders by buying back shares over the next three months, and said it would also hike the dividend by 15 per cent.
It brings the total payout to Shell shareholders to $26 billion (£22.4 billion) so far this year.
But it will raise pressure for a fresh windfall tax. 
Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘The Conservative government’s refusal to properly tax these eye-watering profits is an insult to families struggling to pay their energy bills.
‘Even the CEO of Shell has admitted that oil and gas companies should be taxed more to help protect vulnerable households.
‘It’s time Rishi Sunak introduced a proper windfall tax and used the extra money to support people facing heart-breaking choices this winter.’
The Chancellor yesterday announced that the medium term fiscal announcement would be delayed from Halloween to November 17 to allow time to rework the economic plan amid a £40 billion black hole in the nation’s finances.
Analysis has today shown that the two-week postponement cut the figure by up to £15 billion with the interest rate on government gilts and international gas prices both falling swiftly.
The fortnight delay will also allow the Office of Budget Responsibility to base its forecasts for UK finances on more recent economic conditions.
Meanwhile, gas prices have halved, crashing from £190 per megawatt hour last month to around £90 in international markets.
A spokesman for the OBR said: ‘Had our forecast been published on October 31, it would have been based on market determinants, including for gas prices and gilt yields, from the early to middle part of October.
‘Postponing the date to November 17 means that we will take a later window for these market prices.’
Estonia has called on new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to commit to raising British defence spending.
Mr Sunak has not matched a pledge by his predecessor Liz Truss to boost defence spending from 2 per cent to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030, having previously described such targets as ‘arbitrary’.
When asked in a BBC interview if Nato countries should aim to spend 3 per cent of GDP on defence, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said: ‘Absolutely.’
He also said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a ‘game-changer’.
‘Autocrats are investing in weapons,’ he added.
‘They believe in (the) power of arms. To defend our values – the rules-based order – we need also to invest in the weapons.’
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who survived Mr Sunak’s reshuffle in the same role, would be on resignation watch if the Government backtracks on the defence spending commitment.
Mr Reinsalu also asked the UK not to cut troop numbers in Estonia, saying ‘we love UK soldiers’ and ‘we want more’.
It came after the Government was criticised by opposition parties earlier this month for appearing to be ‘shamelessly walking away’ from Estonia, amid reports almost 700 British troops deployed to the country were being withdrawn without any planned replacements.

It comes after Mr Sunak talked tough on the economy n as he made a fiery Prime Minister’s Questions debut against Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer.
Minutes after he revealed he and Mr Hunt had delayed the fiscal statement to be in three weeks’ time, the new Prime Minister warned the opposition that he would not shy away from ‘difficult decisions’.
He also goaded Sir Keir over the profligate spending plans of previous Labour leaders, congratulating him on realising that ‘spending has to be paid for’.
But later his press secretary would not commit to keeping the triple lock
They said yesterday: ‘That is something that is going to be wrapped up into the fiscal statement, we wouldn’t comment ahead of any fiscal statements or budgets.
‘But what I can say is he has shown through his record as Chancellor is that he will do what’s right and compassionate for the most vulnerable.’
Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Rishi Sunak stood on a manifesto in 2019 on a pledge to keep the triple lock. Now he’s threatening that promise to Britain’s retirees. 
‘With pensioners struggling under the Conservatives cost of living crisis, it’s clear that Rishi Sunak is not on their side.’
The markets have been calmed by the replacement of Mr Kwarteng and Liz Truss in the top jobs, potentially giving the new team more time to play with. 
But they are facing a serious task of how to find savings to fill in a black hole in the public coffers. 
Mr Hunt told broadcasters yesterday: ‘I want to confirm that it will demonstrate debt falling over the medium term which is really important for people to understand.
‘But it’s also extremely important that that statement is based on the most accurate possible economic forecasts and forecasts of public finances.
‘And for that reason the Prime Minister and I have decided it is prudent to make that statement on November 17 when it will be upgraded to a full autumn statement.’
The head of the International Monetary Fund backed Mr Sunak to steer Britain towards fiscal sustainability.
Kristalina Georgieva said  he was right to warn the public of difficult decisions ahead and welcomed what she said was Sunak’s clarity and constructive attitude that she knew from his time as finance minister.
She is expected to speak to Mr Hunt in coming days.
DOMINIC RAAB 
Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister
Mr Raab’s stint on the backbenches following Liz Truss‘s reshuffle was a brief one, having been rewarded for his loyalty to Rishi Sunak with a return to Government.
Conservative MP Dominic Raab arrives for a meeting with newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street yesterday
Newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waves to members of the media before entering 10 Downing Street after delivering his first speech
The karate blackbelt and former Foreign Office lawyer will be given an opportunity to pick up where he left off under Boris Johnson, as Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary.
JEREMY HUNT 
Chancellor of the Exchequer
A vastly experienced minister across the many departments, Mr Hunt replaced Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor this month.
He put in a measured performance from the Commons despatch box as he tore up Miss Truss’s tax-cutting plans, calming the markets.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt stands outside 10 Downing Street yesterday as he is reappointed to the role
Mr Hunt, the longest-serving health secretary in British political history, keeps his job and remains in No 11 Downing Street.
SUELLA BRAVERMAN 
Home Secretary
Mrs Braverman is a leading figure on the Right of the party, and came out in support of Rishi Sunak during the latest leadership contest.
She returns as Home Secretary, a week after she was forced out of Government for breaking the ministerial code after emailing a sensitive document from a personal account.
Glad to be back: Suella Braverman strides out of No10 yesterday
Often outspoken, she recently blamed eco-protests across the country on ‘the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati’.
JAMES CLEVERLY
Foreign Secretary
Mr Cleverly retains his job as Foreign Secretary – one of the Great Offices of State – despite being an old ally of Boris Johnson. In fact, Mr Cleverly publicly endorsed Mr Johnson for PM in the latest leadership race and had previously been a staunch backer of Liz Truss.
BEN WALLACE 
Defence Secretary
Retaining former soldier Mr Wallace as Defence Secretary is likely to be an attempt to soothe the military community amid growing unease over defence spending. The Sandhurst graduate has been in post for more than three years, making him one of the longest-serving ministers to hold the same position.
STEVE BARCLAY
Health Secretary
Mr Barclay returns to his job in Government having previously been sacked as Health Secretary as part of Liz Truss’s reshuffle. He previously held the role for two months and was memorably interrupted by a heckler while giving an interview outside a hospital. Mr Barclay worked with Rishi Sunak at the Treasury during the pandemic. He will be expected to get a grip on NHS spending.
NADHIM ZAHAWI
Minister Without Portfolio
Mr Zahawi earned a reputation during the pandemic as a safe pair of hands and skilled media performer. But the former vaccine minister’s magic touch well and truly deserted him during the two recent Tory leadership races after a series of loyalty flip-flops.
OLIVER DOWDEN
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Mr Dowden now holds the most senior Cabinet position after the PM. The ex-Culture Secretary has been rewarded for his unwavering support during the leadership races. He quit as party chairman after taking responsibility for the Tories’ disastrous by-election defeats in two seats in the summer.
GRANT SHAPPS
Business Secretary
Grant Shapps who has been appointed Business Secretary after briefly being appointed as home secretary by ex-PM Liz Truss, leaves Downing Street
Mr Shapps is another to have served across multiple government departments, most recently as Home Secretary less than a week ago following the departure of Suella Braverman. He was a prominent figure during the pandemic as transport secretary.
GILLIAN KEEGAN
Education Secretary
Passed the test: Gillian Keegan is the new Education Secretary
Mrs Keegan is the fifth person this year to hold the position of Education Secretary. She spent a year as health minister before moving to the Foreign Office as part of MissTruss’s doomed premiership.
She was forced to apologise earlier this year for an ‘error of judgment’ after continuing a meeting with grieving fathers despite testing positive for Covid part-way through.
PENNY MORDAUNT
Commons Leader
Penny Mordaunt has been appointed Britain’s Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
In a major humiliation, there was no big promotion for Miss Mordaunt, the former magician’s assistant who holds on to her position as Leader of the House of Commons.
She stood against Mr Sunak for the leadership this weekend, but pulled out at the last moment when it became clear she did not have the backing of enough MPs.
She appears to have paid the price for her failure to strike a deal with her rival.
MEL STRIDE
Work and Pensions Secretary
Mr Stride is well known to Rishi Sunak, having managed his campaign to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister. He publicly criticised Liz Truss’s ill-fated mini-Budget, saying it had put the Conservative Party’s reputation for managing the economy in jeopardy. The chairman of the Treasury Select Committee is a former president of the Oxford Union.
THERESE COFFEY 
Environment Secretary
A big demotion on the face of it for ex-health secretary Miss Coffey, though the fact she remains in Government despite her support of Liz Truss suggests the PM was keen to appease his predecessor’s followers. 
The self-confessed karaoke fan admitted she was ‘not the role model’ when it came to her own health after being questioned about her lifestyle. 
She left Downing Street yesterday by announcing she was ‘going home to Defra’ – a department which she served in for three years from 2016.
SIMON HART
Chief Whip
The former Welsh Secretary is not exactly a household name. But he takes on one of the most significant roles in Government, responsible for ensuring discipline within the Conservative Parliamentary Party.
SIR GAVIN WILLIAMSON 
Minister Without Portfolio
The former education secretary and master of the parliamentary arts and will attend Cabinet, a clear reward for his staunch backing of Mr Sunak’s campaign.
Other appointments yesterday: Michelle Donelan, Culture Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, International Trade Secretary, Mark Harper, Transport Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, Northern Ireland Secretary, Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, David TC Davies, Secretary of State for Wales, Lord True, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords, Victoria Prentis, Attorney General, Jeremy Quin, Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office, John Glen, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Johnny Mercer, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Tom Tugendhat, Security Minister, Robert Jenrick, Immigration Minister, Andrew Mitchell, Minister for Development
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group

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