One of the hallmarks of a decent and civilised society is the protection of the elderly. That is why I am pleased that the government is doing much to enhance the life of pensioners.
Over the last four years, this Government has done more to help and support the elderly than any other in my lifetime. Whether it be protecting universal benefits for pensioners, delivering the biggest ever cash increase to the state pension, restoring the link to earnings of the basic state pension or by introducing automatic enrolment in workplace pension schemes, this Government has shown that it is committed to helping and supporting pensioners across Shropshire, and across the country.
Indeed, the good news for pensioners has kept on coming. In the recent Budget, the Chancellor announced some of the most comprehensive and radical reforms to pensions policy for decades. By removing the obligation to buy an annuity in retirement, pensioners will now have the flexibility to manage and access their hard earned money in the way they see fit. Whether they choose to take it as a lump sum or withdraw it over time, or still buy an annuity, pensioners will now have the freedom to take the decision that is right for them. No longer will pensioners be punished by a tax rate of 55% for withdrawing their pensions. This is as very positive step forward.
The Government also announced that the guaranteed pension income required for flexible drawdown will be cut from £20,000 to £12,000 and that the capped drawdown limit will also increase from 120% to 150% of the Government Actuary's Department rate. This will allow more flexibility to those who would otherwise buy an annuity.
All of this is excellent news and has been warmly welcomed by many of the pensioners I have spoken to across my constituency. I hope that we some more good news over the coming year.
Pensioners who spend their whole lives working and contributing to the country deserve to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. That is why I am pleased the Government is doing much good work to ensure pensioners have the opportunities and support to make the most of their well-earned retirement. Whilst there is always more to do - the government has at least made a very good start in putting right the many wrongs inflicted on pensioners over many years.