By Brendan Carlin, Political Correspondent 27 Oct 2006
Last Updated: 2:19AM BST
27 Oct 2006
Tony Blair was accused yesterday of leaving millions of pensioners to "rot in poverty" by denying them a decent living before they died.
In a mass lobby of Parliament, hundreds of pensioners urged MPs to restore the link between pension increases and earnings immediately.
They also called for the basic state pension to rise for all from £84.25 a week to £114, the minimum income guaranteed to poorer pensioners.
Braving the wind and rain outside Westminster
Others took aim at MPs' generous pensions, with protesters wearing T-shirts depicting a grinning Mr Blair playing When I'm 65 on the guitar and saying: "I'll have a fabulous pension – too bad about you lot."
One, Jay Ginn, 67, of Coulsdon, Surrey
But the Government made clear it yesterday that it would not budge, saying that it would cost £10 billion by 2010 to bring the promise forward.
It was the Thatcher government in 1980 that scrapped the system whereby annual pension rises were automatically linked to rises in earnings.
The state pension now rises in line with inflation.
In what one Labour MP described as a "gritted teeth" decision by Gordon Brown, the Government has now promised to restore the link in six years' time.
David Cameron's Conservatives support restoration of the link and said they were "happy" with the Government's timetable.
But the National Pensioners' Convention (NPC) organised yesterday's rally to call for its immediate restoration. Joe Harris, NPC general secretary, accused the Government of "breathtaking complacency" by not restoring the link now as one in five pensioners was below the poverty line.
More than 80 MPs have already signed a Commons motion calling for the link to be restored "as a matter of urgency".
And yesterday, Kelvin Hopkins, Labour MP for Luton North, told the rally that "more tax for the rich" could help pay for it.
Mr Hopkins, who turned 65 in
But he told an audience of about 400 pensioners: "The Government is panicking because we're starting to win the argument."
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