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State Pension

Volume 771: debated on Thursday 28 April 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people they expect to benefit from the new state pension, and what will be the average increase per person.

My Lords, by 2030 the new state pension will result in higher state pension payments for 6 million future pensioners, who will receive on average £10 a week more state pension, with 3 million women receiving on average £11 a week more and 3 million men receiving £9 a week more.

I thank my noble friend the Minister for those encouraging numbers. The old system was complicated and confusing, and many people were left uncertain of what their income would be in retirement. Does my noble friend think that the new system, which is not just higher but clearer, might encourage more people to save for their retirement?

My noble friend is absolutely right. The aim of the new state pension is that people will have a much clearer idea of how much they can get from the state pension without extensive means testing so that it is clear and safe for them to save as they can on top of it.

What estimate have the Government made of the result of less means testing, which means less passporting to other benefits for those who were means tested, who presumably will not now receive those benefits? What is the overall saving to the Government in that respect?

The estimates are that the new state pension will be cost-neutral for the first few decades. Therefore, the aim is that we can give people security and an understanding of what they will get from the state system, and that, as we roll out auto-enrolment to ensure that every worker will have a private pension, it is safe for those workers all around the country to save for their future so that they can supplement their own income.

My Lords, will the Government seriously consider ending the anomalously tax-free status of the winter fuel payment by consolidating it into the basic state pension, which is, of course, taxable?

This Government have made an absolute commitment that winter fuel payments will be protected up to 2020. Any changes that a future Government may wish to make will be decided in due course.

One of the groups that particularly benefits from the high state pension, championed by my colleague Steve Webb in the last Government, is the self-employed. However, the proportion of self-employed in private pensions is disappearing over a cliff. What plan do the Government have to address this problem?

The noble Lord makes an important point; it is one that the Government have already been looking at. The new state pension will give much more clarity and generosity to the base on which the self-employed can build. The new lifetime ISA may be an opportunity for the self-employed to save in a way that they might be more comfortable with, rather than locking money irrevocably into a pension in their 20s and 30s.

My Lords, we know, and the Minister has confirmed, that overall expenditure on pensioner benefits is projected to be broadly the same under the new system as under the old until about 2040. Thereafter, expenditure growth is slower, so the Government plan to save money. There will be winners and losers. In particular among the losing category will be those currently in their 20s and 30s. The Government are pocketing some £4 billion to £5 billion extra a year from national insurance contributions because of the abolition of contracting out. Following another Budget disaster this year, the Government were forced to commit that there will be no more welfare cuts this Parliament. Will the Minister confirm that this applies to all existing pensioner benefits and that the triple lock, including that applied to the new state pension, will be applied as now? Further, should the UK leave the EU as the result of the referendum, what route, if any, will the Government take to preserve existing reciprocal pension uprating arrangements?

The noble Lord has asked about five questions. However, I can certainly reassure the House that there is an absolute commitment to protect pensioner benefits up to 2020, and the basic state pension and the full new state pension, through the triple lock. As regards the expenditure on state pension, the reason that there are losers, if you like, in the long run—although I would not call them losers—is that we need to make the state pension system sustainable. That is exactly what the new state pension system will do. Indeed, with the introduction of the state pension, 75% of women and 70% of men will get more state pension. In the long term, the aim is for the auto-enrolment private pension to make up for the loss of earnings-linked state pensions.

My Lords, I am sure that is very welcome news, but reverting to the question asked by my noble friend Lord Lawson, will my noble friend remind the House of the total cost of the winter fuel payment?

The cost of the winter fuel payment is approximately £2 billion per year. It provides security for older people by ensuring that they have the confidence to spend money on heating their homes, which otherwise they might not do. We know how vulnerable older people are to the cold.