41.Currently, the basic state pension is required to be uprated annually in line with prices. The Secretary of State is required to consider how this movement should be measured. For contributory benefits, including the basic state pension, up-rating has, in practice, taken place according to the Retail Prices Index. However, in recent years, the Government has given a commitment to uprate by the greater of 2.5 per cent or the Retail Prices Index. Since giving this commitment the Retail Prices Index has always been higher.
42.From the time state pension credit was introduced in October 2003, the Secretary of State has uprated the standard minimum guarantee annually in line with earnings, in reliance on a discretionary power in the existing legislation. There is currently no mandatory requirement to uprate the standard minimum guarantee in state pension credit.
43.The lower earnings limit, currently £87 per week (equating to an annual qualifying earnings factor of £4,524), is the earnings point at which employees start to build up entitlement to contributory working age and pension benefits, by treating an individual as if they have paid National Insurance contributions. National Insurance contributions do not actually become payable until an individual has earnings at or above the primary threshold, currently £100 a week, (£5,200 per annum). At present, the amount of the lower earnings limit increases in line with prices, because it is linked to the weekly rate of Category A basic state pension.
44.Similarly, the rate of the basic allowance in widowed mother’s allowance, widow’s pension, widowed parent’s allowance and bereavement allowance also increases in line with prices because they are linked to the rate of Category A basic state pension. The higher permanent rate of the widow’s pension and widower’s pension in Industrial Death Benefit has also historically been the same as the rate of Category A basic state pension.