After days of uncertainty and warnings not to betray older people, prime minister Liz Truss has confirmed the pension triple lock guarantee will be protected.

Pensioners were warned they could face the “double whammy” next April of a real terms cut to their state pension as well as the prospect of energy support being pared back.

This would mean they could miss out on £442 a year if triple lock is not maintained, according to former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb.

But what is the pension triple lock and what difference will it make to people?

What does the triple lock do?

The triple lock guarantees that the state pension rises every year in line with inflation, earnings or 2.5pc – whichever is highest. September’s inflation figure, at 10.1pc, would normally be part of the calculation.

The policy helps to ensure pensioners’ living standards keep up with those of the wider population. More than 12 million people receive the state pension.

What has happened to the triple lock?

The triple lock was previously paused for a year, as the coronavirus pandemic had distorted the wages element of the triple lock. Pensions rose by 3.1pc this year.

So what is happening now?

Ms Truss had previously stated she was committed to the triple lock.

However, there were then indications that ministers could potentially ditch the commitment, with new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt searching for ways to plug a multi-billion pound black hole in the wake of the turmoil following the mini-budget.

But speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Ms Truss insisted that “we are protecting the triple lock on pensions”.

Why would axing the triple lock be controversial?

Politically, it could inflict further damage, following a string of recent policy u-turns. It was a Conservative manifesto pledge and its previous suspension had been viewed as a one-off due to the distorting impacts of the pandemic.

Ditching the promise would affect some of the most vulnerable people in society, many of whom live on fixed incomes, as high inflation wreaks havoc with household budgets.

However, some may make arguments around “intergenerational fairness”, with many working-age people receiving pay rises well below the current rate of inflation.

What impact would there be in cash terms if pensions rose in line with earnings next April instead of inflation?

If pensions rose by 5.5pc, in line with earnings, the weekly new state pension would be £195.35. But if it rose in line with Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation, at 10.1pc it would be £8.50 per week higher, at £203.85.

This would add up to a difference of £442 over the course of a year in pensioners’ pockets.

Tom Selby, head of retirement policy at AJ Bell said: “The difference this decision will make to people’s state pension incomes from next year will be massive.

“For those struggling to make ends meet, that amount of money could make a real difference to their quality of life, particularly over the winter months.”