The Ministry of Finance rules out changes to pensioners’ winter fuel payment

Jeremy Hunt will not take winter fuel cash away from wealthy pensioners, a finance minister said when a senior colleague asked why the handout should go to the well-off.

The chancellor, who will deliver his autumn statement on Wednesday, will not touch payments worth up to £600, said junior exchequer Gareth Davies.

His comments came after government minister John Glenn went on record saying the money could be better spent tackling child poverty.

Mr Glenn, who was chief secretary to the Treasury at the time – the second most senior minister in the ministry after Mr Hunt – also questioned whether the triple lock guaranteeing state pension rises was sustainable.

The minister, who became director-general of payments in last week's reshuffle, was speaking at a Cambridge University Conservative event last month, The Telegraph reported.

In comments on October 26 obtained by the newspaper in a leaked recording, he said: “I think we also have to come to terms with the fact that the triple lock is very expensive and how sustainable that is in the future in terms of pensions and everything else benefits;

“Because my mother, she's not very rich, but she's perfectly comfortable. He just texted me today, aged 75, to say ‘I've just heard about my £500 winter fuel payment' and I'm like ‘you don't need it'.

“But finding a mechanism to try and deal with that (the winter fuel payment) is very difficult because our HMRC system will look at household incomes.

“These are the kinds of mechanisms of government that you have to look at. Is it better to spend more of this money on child poverty? Probably it is. But those are the kinds of things I think we need to look at.”

The Treasury ruled out a change to the winter fuel allowance in its autumn statement, with a spokesman saying: “That's not something we're going to do.”

And Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Davis told Sky News: “We are not going to touch the winter fuel allowance.”

Pressed on whether he ruled out testing the allowance, the MP replied: “We have no plans to change the winter fuel allowance.

“But we have a strong record of supporting pensioners, so we will always stand by our pensioners to ensure they have a decent pension and retirement security.”

Labour's shadow general secretary Darren Jones wrote to Mr Hunt, saying: “Pensioners will be deeply concerned by such speculation, especially ahead of winter, and anxious that their incomes may be threatened by this government. “