Suspending the state pension triple lock could kill it altogether, experts warn

However, inflation is expected to remain low at 0pc next year and 2pc for the following four years, while earnings growth is expected to be 0pc next year, followed by a steady growth to 1pc, 2pc and eventually 2.5pc by 2024. 

Under these assumptions, a move to a double lock would save the Government £2.9bn in 2021 alone. The annual savings would increase over time, reflecting the lower state pensions in all of the previous years under the double lock, meaning that by 2025 the Government could be saving £4.7bn a year.

This also reflects the fact that the number of pensioners is set to increase over time. Mr Corfe said: “Those savings would help meet the huge costs arising from the lockdown. Shaving £4bn a year from the growth of the £100bn pension bill is not too much to ask.”

But the Government could face the opposite problem, with earnings growth shooting up uncontrollably, Sir Steve said. If 7.5 million workers who are earning 80pc of their pay on furlough return to their usual salary next year, this could skew the figures and deliver an artificially high earnings growth. 

Regardless of the triple lock guarantee, the law states that the state pension has to rise with earnings, Sir Steve said, which means the Government may have to review legislation.

Steven Cameron, of pension provider Aegon, said it would be “wrong” for the Government to rush to scrap the triple lock before properly reviewing all other options. 

Mr Cameron said: “We are likely to need a package of measures and these need to be fair and seen as fair across different sectors of society as well as age groups including pensioners versus those of working age.”

Claire Trott, head of pensions strategy at wealth firm St. James’s Place, said pensions were often seen as easy pickings for the Government to save money, but that these are “people’s lives, not just an arbitrary number”.

She said: “I feel that targeting pensioners specifically is unfair. Although it is clear that on the other side of this crisis there may be difficult decisions to be made in relation to a lot of issues, such as tax relief on pension contributions, now isn’t the time to be throwing these ideas around.”

This is not the first time the triple lock has come under fire. In 2017 an independent review commissioned by the Government recommended scrapping the protection.

If the Government had not set up the triple lock mechanism in 2010, today’s pensioners would be £10.10 worse off a week, or £525 a year, according to figures compiled for Telegraph Money by Hymans Robertson, a pensions consultancy.

A double lock would have increased the old state pension by £8 per week. This means that, had the Government left the 2.5pc minimum out of the original guarantee, retirees would be £2.10 worse off a week, or £109.20 worse off each year.

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