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MPs distance themselves from calls to axe bus passes for pensioners
6:20am Wednesday 11th July 2012 in Politics
HAMPSHIRE’S Conservative MPs have distanced themselves from a Tory colleague who called for free buses and prescriptions to be axed for better-off pensioners.
Nick Boles also wants other universal benefits, such as free television licences for the over 75s and winter fuel payments, to be means-tested from 2015.
Mr Boles, a close ally of David Cameron, said older people must shoulder their fair share of spending cuts.
His speech was seen as testing the water on behalf of ministers for potential Conservative policy after the next general election, when the party will be aiming to secure a mandate free from the Liberal Democrats.
But Mr Brine pointed to the Tories' "clear manifesto commitment" not to cut the payments, saying it would be likely to be "unacceptable" to make any changes before the next election.
Under the universal benefits principle, certain payments are given to people whatever their level of need.
However, he added: "I am sure you could make a strong case to say that there's a black hole in the economy and sometimes we have to take a view that the nation simply cannot afford something."
He would take "a lot of persuading" to go back on the commitment, he added.
But he declined to say whether the pensioners' payments should be protected, insisting they had to be seen in the context of the government's other economic policies.