Skip to main content

Eligibility for State Pension

Volume 565: debated on Monday 1 July 2013

6. What assessment he has made of eligibility for the state pension following the rise in contributions to 35 years from 2016. (162094)

Does the Minister accept that as a result of the changes fewer people overall will qualify for the state pension by 2020? Does he agree that that is particularly unfair to people who, being so close to retirement, will not have time to make up the years?

We have put in place special provision for the very people to whom the hon. Gentleman refers. When we value their pension rights at 2016, we will do so under the current rules, where 30 years are needed to qualify, and the new rules, where 35 years are needed, and we will use whichever of the two provides the highest number. The 2016 calculation will take whichever set of rules treats people most favourably and they will build upon that.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the proposed arrangements will greatly reduce means-testing in the long run and so restore incentives for people to save?

My hon. Friend is right. The danger with the current system is that people who save find that the Government come along and say, “You’ve saved some money—we’ll take some money off you.” Our intention is to encourage, not penalise, saving. Paying a single, simple, decent pension just above the level of the basic means test will greatly enhance those incentives.

The Government’s case for the new state pension is that it will increase the incentive to save in private pensions, but does the Minister agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), a Treasury Parliamentary Private Secretary? He told the House during Second Reading of the Pensions Bill:

“One reason that people are not saving is that there is massive distrust of the industry. I have many colleagues in the private sector who would almost cut their arms off than invest in the pensions market.—[Official Report, 17 June 2013; Vol. 564, c. 712.]

What will the Minister to encourage people to make those savings in private pensions?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman to the extent that there is mistrust of private pensions, which is why we have taken strong action,: for example, we have banned consultancy charges, which were a source of concern. On savings incentives, if he looks at our analysis, he will find that low earners in particular will have much smaller withdrawal rates when they save. Therefore, the return on savings, particularly for low earners, about whom I am sure he is most concerned, will be enhanced by the proposals.

I think my hon. Friend might be referring to the idea of a total welfare cap, and while the Chancellor of the Exchequer has explicitly ruled out the idea of capping state pensions, I understand there are others in this House who are prepared to cap state pensions.