In 1979, 43 per cent. of people over state pension age had an income from an occupational pension. By 1992, the latest year for which figures are available, that proportion had increased to 60 per cent.
Will the Minister confirm that the Government's encouragement of occupational pensions has helped to achieve a 50 per cent. increase in pensioners' average net incomes since 1979? Will he further confirm that measures in the Pensions Bill, against which the Labour party voted, will help to make occupational pensions more secure in future?
Yes. Our policy is to encourage private pension provision, the money from which goes into industry and into creating assets to build up pensions for the future. Last Monday, however, in its reasoned amendment, the Labour party voted not to give the Pensions Bill a Second Reading. It voted to deny pensioners the security that the Bill will provide, it voted to deny women the equality that the Bill will provide and it voted to deny the entire country of the choice that the Bill will provide, yet Labour Members pose as the friends of pensioners.
Everyone would welcome the growth in the number of people in receipt of occupational pensions, but will not many millions of our fellow citizens, who will become pensioners in the years ahead, be dependent on the state earnings-related pension scheme to supplement their pension income? Does the Minister accept the assessment of the Government Actuary that the proposed changes to SERPs in the Pensions Bill—the very Bill that he is defending—will substantially reduce people's supplementary pension income, with a total reduction of more than £9 billion by 2050? Will he give detailed figures assessing the effects of those changes on individual entitlement at the time of retirement?
Today is Labour Day and this is new Labour speaking. It surprises me that Labour has decided to attack a reduction in state spending in the light of its new Labour image on Saturday. It also surprises me that Labour dares to say anything about pensions, as it will not even tell the country whether, if it were in office, it would uprate pensions by prices or by earnings. It is necessary, as I have said before, to improve and increase private pension provision. One of the reasons why there will be a reduction in SERPs is that so many people will be going into private pension provision over the next 20, 30 or 40 years.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that occupational pensioners have seen an increase of about two thirds in the amount, on average, that they receive from their occupational pensions since 1979? Will he also confirm that the very poorest pensioners, who probably do not receive occupational pensions, will from April this year, as a couple, receive a minimum of £100 a week, with all their housing costs being paid? Does not that show how the Government care for the welfare of poor pensioners?
My hon. Friend is right. On average, newly retiring pensioners have an occupational pension of about £100 a week over and above the state retirement pension.