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I advocated a universal or citizens pension as a Government Member for many years, but one strong argument against such a pension is that many people are very attached to the contributory principle. That came out in the original discussions, when the Government of the day decided to reduce the state pension qualifying years down to 30 for both men and women.
Part of the problem in this country is that we have no means other than NI contributions by which to determine who should qualify for a state pension, because we do not keep residency records, which is how the judgment is made in, for instance, New Zealand. The problem in this country is more complex than it may seem.
The state pension age is about to go up to 66 for men and women by 2020. This was meant to be a Budget for growth, but the very first thing the Chancellor spoke of was the downgrading of the growth figures. I am worried about where all the jobs will come from given the increased number of people in the workplace. The numbers in the work force are expected to increase because of the new work obligations on jobseeker’s allowance claimants; because lone parents will be expected to look for work when their youngest child is five; because 30% of incapacity benefit claimants will be assessed as fully fit for work and expected to go into the workplace; and because another 30% of such claimants will end up in the work-related activity group of employment and support allowance. Huge numbers of people are expected to go into the workplace. It is difficult to get figures on how many more people will be looking for work because the Department for Work and Pensions could not give them to us, but on top of those, the raising of the state pension age means that even more people will be looking for work.