Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:14 pm on 23rd March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee 3:14 pm, 23rd March 2011

I was going to talk about housing, but I could speak for another three hours if I go down that route, so if my hon. Friend will forgive me, I shall resist.

Will older people who have not reached state pension age be in work or not? At the moment, only 30% of men are still in work aged 65—not only because of early retirement and other things, but because people lose their jobs towards the end of their working lives—but they will be expected to work another year. Only 47% of women aged 60 are still in work, but they will be expected to work for another six years. Those people will not necessarily get anything under the universal credit, because they will probably have saved a nice little nest egg—a nest egg of just over £16,000—to see them through retirement. They will not get jobseeker’s allowance—or rather, they might get it for six months, but that is all they will get through the contributory principle. If they have fallen out of work because of ill health, the most that they might get is a year of employment and support allowance before then getting nothing. Those are big figures, and that is where a lot of the welfare reform savings in the Red Book will come from.

Indeed, it is perhaps worth alerting the House to the fact that the big savings in welfare reform do not come from getting “shirkers” back into work; they come from taking money from those who would normally have got contributory incapacity benefit, but will now get only contributory employment and support allowance for a year. That means that around £80 a week will come out of those people’s incomes. They will get nothing else if they live in a household with someone in work or with any other source of income, or if they have a small pension or savings of more £16,000. Therefore, there will be a new group of people struggling, and they will not be old-age pensioners; they will be pre-old-age pensioners, as it were. They are people who have fallen out of work, but not been able to work to 66 and get their state pension. They have been left with little—in fact, in some cases nothing—from the safety net that we think the welfare state is there to provide.

There is a lot more that I could say; indeed, I am sorry that I have spoken for longer than I intended. Over the coming days I will go through Red Book in a lot more detail than I have managed to today. However, from what I have seen already, there is a great deal for people to be concerned about in what the Chancellor has announced today.