Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead, Labour)
Of course it would, so we would keep the baby and the bathwater rather than throwing both out. I thought that my hon. Friend the Minister was saying to my hon. and learned Friend Vera Baird during their interesting interchange that when the report is published next year one suggestion that follows on might be to make good some of the glaring gaps in the national insurance system by ensuring that credit is given for jobs such as caring for vulnerable old people, to be taken into account when computing people's pension entitlement.
We must be able to pay for any proposals that we make in the election campaign. I agree that the Liberal Democrats have come up with a slightly hazy scheme of abolishing the Department of Trade and Industry, especially given that they want all its functions to be carried out elsewhere.
I leave this point with my hon. Friend the Minister, because I suspect that he knows the figures and he used to write about such matters when he was a free agent. This year is the first in which higher-rate taxpayers will take half the tax subsidy that goes towards pension savings. It is not the case, as Mr. Waterson suggested, that if we allowed such subsidy at only the standard rate—meaning that everyone was treated equally—we would rip £6 billion from the system. We would, however, find an extra £2 billion with which we could make payments to schemes such as those advocated by the Liberal Democrats. Given that our present tax subsidies support those with the most generous pension provisions to the greatest extent, we should have a little courage when fighting the next election and decide to redistribute some, but not all, of that money to the poorest people. That would go a long way towards ensuring that we could significantly increase payments to the over-75s through the national insurance system. Such a payment would have nothing to do with whether those people were citizens, but it would have a lot to do with whether they would vote for us.