Backbench Business — [Un-allotted Day] — CPI/RPI Pensions Uprating
Bill Presented — Private Pensions (Charges, Disclosure and Accountability) Bill
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington, Labour)
I am pleased that the National Pensioners Convention supports the quadruple lock, because that is what I have proposed in the House when we have debated this matter previously. It would come as a bit of a surprise if the NPC were to support the switch to CPI, given that a number of its members handcuffed themselves and blocked the road outside Parliament last week in protest against the measure. That is a form of direct action that I support.
The switch has had an impact on millions of people, as I have said. That is because, historically, the difference between CPI and RPI has been between 0.7% and 0.9 %. When the Government introduced their statutory instrument to force through the change, the Office for Budget Responsibility assessed that the difference would be 1.1%. Since then, in November, the OBR published a working paper that indicated that the gap would widen, and so increased its forecast for the long-run difference between CPI and RPI to 1.4%. What that means in practical terms for people’s pensions is that after 15 years a CPI-indexed pension would be 17.4% lower than an RPI-indexed pension, and after 20 years it would be between 23% to 25% less. That is a significant amount. That was confirmed by the much-cited Hutton report on pensions, which stated:
“This change in the indexation measure, from RPI to CPI, may have reduced the value of benefits to scheme members by around 15% on average. When this change is combined with other reforms to date across the major schemes the value to current members of reformed schemes with CPI indexation is, on average, around 25% less than pre-reform schemes with RPI indexation.”
Many hon. Members will have received representations from people working in different jobs about what the switch means to them. Let me cite some examples to
give the House a flavour of why there is such depth of feeling out in the country on this issue. Let us take the case of Jim Singer himself, the creator of the e-petition. Jim has worked for the Department for Work and Pensions as a partnership development manager in the east of Scotland, based in Aberdeen. He has worked for the civil service for 35 years. He has just turned 60, and he will retire on a salary of £29,000.
As a result of the pay policy imposed by his Department and the Government, Jim has had a pay increase of only 3% in the last five years. That has had the effect of reducing the value of his final salary by around 25%, as against RPI inflation over the past five years. Even if his pay had kept pace with the Government’s favoured indicator, CPI, his final salary would have been 13% higher. That in turn means that his pension will start at a level of over £3,000 a year lower than if his pay had kept pace with RPI, and that his lump sum will be cut by over £9,500. So, he will have a £1,600 pension loss and a £4,960 lump sum under CPI. In addition, the switch from RPI to CPI is likely to cost Jim nearly £23,000 in pension over a normal retirement. Jim’s wife, Sheena, worked for British Telecom and has a pension which is also affected by the switch from RPI to CPI. She stands to lose £9,000 over a 20-year retirement.