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Clause 1 — Equalisation of and increase in pensionable age for men and women

Part of Concessionary Bus Travel (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 18th October 2011.

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Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East 7:00 pm, 18th October 2011

We are talking about a spending period over 10 years, so it is not equivalent to the budget in a given year. Even in those terms, we are always making choices, and I will not accept lessons from a party with many members who are publicly saying that, as quickly as possible, they want to reduce or take away the 50% tax rate. That is something they are keen to do and that is their choice. They can make the case for it, but if they bring that proposal forward, I for one will certainly oppose it. That is another way of deciding how money is going to be spent and how money is going to be collected—and that is only one example.

In an earlier intervention, I mentioned the pension tax relief system, which gives a huge amount of money to people who already have a lot of money. If someone wants to save £100 into their pension pot and they are on 20% tax, in order to get £200 tax relief they have to find £800 from their pocket, but if someone is on 50% tax, they have to find only half the amount they want to save. That is unfair; it is a subsidy to those who already have a lot of income and assets. If at the end of this decade we are finding it difficult to make ends meet and we cannot help the group of women we are talking about, perhaps we should be thinking about that system.

The women who are affected by the measure will be making exactly those comparisons. They know that choices are made in politics and that choices are made by Governments, and they know that it is not impossible for the Government to change their mind on this proposal. They did not campaign for it during the election; indeed one of my hon. Friends has suggested that it was probably drawn up in a great hurry and seemed like a good wheeze at the time, but it puts a particular burden on a group of women many of whom cannot easily afford the changes. I want to emphasise, as several of my colleagues have done, that it should not be assumed that these women have a job and can just go on doing that job, or that they will still be in that job in three, four or five years’ time.