Cowen rules out plans to means-test state pension
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has categorically ruled out means-testing the old-age pension in the Budget, which could stop the payment for those with other sources of income.
But Mr Cowen says it is premature to say the Government will not cut pensions or entitlements for the elderly in Budget 2011.
And Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny also says his party has not decided its position on the state pension.
He said social welfare cuts would "come into the reckoning", but he did indicate that his party would not cut the payment to those who are solely dependent on the state pension.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Cowen said there were a "lot of rumours" circulating and dismissed speculation about means-testing the pension.
"There has never been a suggestion that we would means-test contributory old-age pensions. That was out there. I have heard that myself at home.
"So wherever that came from -- I can imagine where it came from -- it's not true."
Pressure from Fianna Fail backbenchers means the Government is highly unlikely to cut the pension and will instead focus on the other entitlements given to the elderly.
But while the Green Party said "pension cuts are out", Mr Cowen declined to confirm that this decision had been taken by the Cabinet.
"I am a sort of a traditionalist in terms of cabinet confidentiality and I am leading the Government. Until all decisions are made, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. I'm leading the Government and it's important I play by the rules," he said.
"We are being very careful to try and ensure that we maintain to the greatest extent we possibly can all the gains. To be any more specific than that would be to break the rules," he added.
Meanwhile Mr Kenny did not rule out cutting the pension as part of the Fine Gael proposals for spending cuts and tax hikes. But he is not looking at cutting those whose only source of income is the state pension.
"We have made no comment, really, (on the pension) except obviously there is a degree of serious fraud in the welfare area that has to be tackled. I would be loath to be in a position to have to take from pensioners who are relying on the state pension only," he said.
Mr Kenny said his party's proposals for the Budget would be to "protect frontline services and to protect the vulnerable".
"I am saying in general, welfare obviously has to come into the reckoning here."