Orders of the Day — Rights of Savers Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:38 pm on 28th October 2005.

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Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Labour, Sheffield, Hillsborough 12:38 pm, 28th October 2005

We have heard a lot today about people on low incomes. I congratulate Mr. Hurd on showing some sensitivity on the Conservative Benches in recognising the problems that people on low incomes face when it comes to saving for retirement. It should be placed on record now that people on low incomes or with broken records of employment find it extremely difficult to save on a regular basis.

The hand-to-mouth culture in working-class communities has not disappeared. It is so difficult for working-class people on low incomes to save, and they often discover, as the Liberal Democrats acknowledged, that money is needed at crisis points in life in order to survive. If the Bill were to be placed on the statute book, the danger is that it would encourage people on low incomes to believe that they could save for a pension, only to find that, because they had to draw on the funds to meet those crisis needs, they had no pension to draw on in later life. That is exactly where we are at the moment, which is why the Turner commission provides the right way forward.

The Bill is a buy-now, pay-later option. As my mother would tell me, it is robbing Peter to pay Paul. In her darker moods, she would probably quote Mr. Micawber at me, emphasising the need to equate expenditure and income and to balance happiness and misery. That is often the reality of the lives of working class people, in which the difference between poverty and a reasonable existence is so fine.

On the pensions issue, Justine Greening made more than one reference to the 20 and 30-somethings, the Bridget Jones generation, about which we hear so much. She mentioned that many 30-somethings want the flexibility to organise their finances and their lives as they see fit, but the reason they have the luxury of that flexibility is because this Labour Government have delivered macroeconomic stability and family-friendly policies that allow career breaks. It is the 40 and 50-somethings who do not enjoy that luxury. My generation was seared. We are scarred with the memories of the instability that we faced in the early 1980s, when most of us had cracked or broken records of employment because millions of people were made unemployed at that time. Those of us who came to maturity in the late 1970s and early 1980s still face the black hole in our pensions created by the economic instability of the early 1980s, because we do not have provision built up in our funds.