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Peers debate inequalities and injustices impacting younger generations

29 January 2021

Peers criticise the Government for ignoring or rejecting most of their recommendations

PA

The House of Lords. Most members contribute remotely at present

The House of Lords. Most members contribute remotely at present

THE Government should work harder to tackle underlying inequalities and injustices which mean that younger people face a much tougher life than their parents and grandparents, members of the House of Lords have said.

On Monday, in a debate on intergenerational fairness, members referred to policies and circumstances which disadvantaged younger generations, from pensions to housing to the pandemic.

Drawing on a report published by a Lords committee almost two years ago, but not given a parliamentary debate until Monday, peers criticised the Government for ignoring or rejecting most of their recommendations.

“The Government responded to only 29 of our 41 recommendations, and of those 29 they rejected 21, thus rather proving the point of the core finding of our evidence: that intergenerational fairness is not currently considered relevant or pertinent to policy-making,” Baroness Thornhill said.

One recurrent issue was the so-called “triple lock” on pensions, which has meant that the state pension has risen faster than average earnings for the past decade.

Baroness Blackstone, a Labour Independent life peer, said that the days when the elderly were much worse off compared with the young in employment were over. “The Government’s refusal to budge is costing the Treasury huge sums each year, and in the longer term is unsustainable. The triple lock has done its job, and the Government should have the courage to drop it,” she argued.

Another concern was housing, which, it was argued, was increasingly unaffordable for younger people, making home-ownership an impossible dream and forcing millions to live in sub-standard rented accommodation.

This was raised by the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, who said that the programme of quantitative easing undertaken since the 2008 financial crisis had stabilised the markets but also inflated house prices. “The possibility of putting down a deposit and getting a mortgage is difficult when the monetary system is pitted against you,” he said.

The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, accused the Government and the report’s authors of being “blind” to the impact of churches and faith communities in building “all-age social capital across communities and generations”.

The value of services and support offered by church buildings alone had been estimated at £12.4 billion a year, he said. Churches had also been involved in running more than 35,000 projects across England before the pandemic.

Responding for the Government, Baroness Penn noted that the pandemic had made the question of intergenerational equity more pertinent, but assured peers that ministers did account for future generations when determining policy.

It was particularly focused on boosting housebuilding, she said, and reported that, last year, 244,000 new homes had been built: the most for 30 years. Reforms to renting were also in the pipeline.

She did not respond to calls to reassess the pensions triple lock, however, but reminded members of the Government’s promises of multi-billion-pound spending packages for schools and the NHS to assist in the post-Covid recovery.

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