Jonathan Edwards is Plaid's parliamentary candidate in Carmarthen East. He makes a compelling case for Plaid here:
As a candidate in the forthcoming General Election, I am delighted that tonight Plaid Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones will launch our first signature policy of the campaign with a commitment to create a living pension – by raising the basic state pension to the pension credit rate on a universal basis. As someone who led on policy and political matters for the Citizens Advice Service in Wales prior to my nomination, I am only too aware of the poverty faced by pensioners and the failure of the discredited means tested benefits and tax credit systems to target those most in need across the age spectrum. Pensioners in particular consider applying for the pension credit difficult, complicated and above all demeaning.
I am also delighted that our first signature policy is a social justice policy. In the event of a hung Parliament we will now negotiate with the London parties on a basis of creating an equal society and a fair deal for Wales – as opposed to the priorities of the London parties of preserving the wealth and status of the economic elite. This policy is a clear indication that we view things differently from the priorities of the London parties in keeping their city paymasters happy. After over a decade in power and UK GVA figures indicating that inner London continues to be the richest part of the EU with well over 300% of the EU average – with West Wales and the Valleys, less than a couple of hours down the M4, languishing at around the 70% mark (one of the poorest areas of the whole EU25) – the Labour party has lost all pretence of being the party of the people. Quite how Labour Valley MPs can look in the mirror in the morning I have no idea – perhaps it’s the knowledge that they would soon be in the comfort of the Commons Tea Rooms whereby they can absolve their collective guilt.
Fuel poverty is a very important issue for me and if elected I hope to speak on this issue during my maiden speech. One of the key policy interventions Government need to embrace is the need to increase incomes amongst vulnerable groups. With £10bn of benefits and £2bn of tax credits not claimed each year, a living pension such as we have announced today will be a good start to the need to simplify the whole benefits and taxation system, and to start getting to grips with the regional and individual wealth polarisation promoted by the Tory-New Labour alliance.
The pensions issue is not something just for older people. People of my generation will support a policy such as this that offers us security when we reach retirement age. At the moment young people, unless they are fortunate to be members of the dwindling numbers of final salary schemes, face destitute and poverty of an unimaginable scale in old age despite the increasing amounts of our income we have to invest in personal pension plans.
Plaid has a proud history of securing concessions for working people when the UK Governing party finds itself in need of our support to stay in power. In 1979 Dafydd Wigley, Dafydd Ellis Thomas and the great Gwynfor Evans secured a measure to award compensation for quarrymen suffering from respiratory illnesses in the last days of the then Labour Government. Another great Welsh political radical, David Lloyd George argued that society should be judged on the basis of how it treated its pensioners. In 1908, as Chancellor, he was the driving force behind the Old Pensions Act which provided a weekly benefit for those over 70. It would be fitting following the General Election, in the event of a hung Parliament, that the price for Plaid support would depend on a new Living Pension in order to drag pensioners from across the UK out of poverty.
With all the London parties obsessed with cuts in order to placate city creditors they will inevitably attack any spending commitment as unaffordable. Well, politics is about choosing priorities. Their priorities are £80bn on a new Trident weapons system; ID cards; aircraft carriers; wars that do little to enhance our security; hugely expensive Private Finance Initiative schemes; tax cuts for the super rich; and bailing out the banks to the tune of £1.3 trillion.
Our priorities are different. Plaid is the inheritor of the radical Welsh political tradition and it’s up to us to bring forward the sort of progressive ideas such as this that will re-dress the balance between the haves and have nots.