David Cameron is doing his best to do what the Tories haven’t always been that impressive at: capitalising on the clever political bits in this year’s Budget. He was at a PM direct event in Peacehaven today, driving home the importance of the government’s reforms to pensions to his target voters.
But he also had the opportunity to woo them with other policy treats, such as what the Tories might promise on inheritance tax in their next manifesto. ‘Would I like to go further in future?’ he said. ‘Yes, I would. I believe in people being able to pass money down through the generations and pass things on to their children.’ He added that ‘it’s something we’ll have to address in our manifesto’.
That he’s prepared to drop this big a hint is a sign that the Tories feel the economic mood has changed: people will only worry about inheritance tax if they think they’re going to have enough left to pass on to their family. And he’s clearly less worried about headlines suggesting the Tories are just helping their rich friends.
Where he was a little less clear was on pensioner perks, repeatedly telling the gathering that the Conservatives had kept their promise to protect those benefits in this parliament but that ‘I don’t want to pre-judge’ the decisions in the next manifesto. He did argue though that ‘you save a tiny amount of money’ by means-testing those benefits.
Cameron knows that keeping promises is important: one of the reasons he has been so stubborn on pensioner benefits in the face of increasing campaigning from George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith on the matter is that he saw what happened to the Lib Dems when they let down their target voters on tuition fees. And pensioners are more likely to vote than students. But he also knows that the Lib Dems want to do something with many of these benefits after 2015, and that his own colleagues think it’s untenable to make another ‘read-my-lips’ pledge.
You can read his full quotes below:
On inheritance tax:
‘Would I like to go further in future? Yes I would. I believe in people being able to pass money down through the generations and pass things on to their children. I think you build a stronger society like that and I think of course we should, you know, we have to have caps and limits and you have to think about those but generally speaking we should be encouraging people to pass things on to their children. And one of the reasons why George Osborne made that pledge was this point about property, was that when the limit was £300,000 or so, quite a lot of, you know, hardworking families who had worked hard, who’d saved, who’d put that money into the house were being caught by inheritance tax. And inheritance tax should only really be paid by the rich, it shouldn’t be paid for by people who worked hard, who saved and who bought a family house, in say Peacehaven. So the ambition is still there, I would like to go further, it’s better than it was but it didn’t make it into the coalition agreement but it’s something we’ll have to address in our manifesto.’
On pensioner benefits:
‘I made a very clear pledge at a Saga gathering and I made it again at the election that we should keep the pensioner benefits, obviously all pledges are about the parliament that you’re going into and we make new pledges in our manifesto for the next parliament. But we said very clearly we would up-rate the basic state pension, we’d keep the winter fuel allowance, the free TV licence, the bus pass, the cold weather payments. We’ve done all of those things, we’ve kept our promises in all of those areas, we’ll set out or policy for the next parliament at the next election. I don’t want to pre-judge that. The only thing I would say is that people who think you save lots of money by not giving those benefits to upper rate, top-rate taxpayers, you save a tiny amount of money and you always introduce another complexity into the system. So, you know, but we made our promise in this parliament, we’ve kept our promise in this parliament we’ve kept our promise in this parliament, and I’m very proud of that because I don’t think older people in Britain should be asked to suffer for the difficult decisions that we have to make and making promises and keeping promises is a very important part of politics, and you know woe betide the politician that makes one of these promises and says oh well sorry I didn’t mean it.’