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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 7:30 pm on 18th October 2011.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 7:30 pm, 18th October 2011

Perhaps the hon. Lady does not understand what I am saying. I am talking about people who will reach state pension age in seven or eight years’ time, so I am not sure that writing a letter, stating, “In the event you are on a certain benefit in seven or eight years’ time, and the delay in tribunals in such and such,” is germane to my point.

The Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Dame Anne Begg, in a characteristically balanced contribution—[ Interruption ] I spotted the balance even if nobody else did. She described the changes we are making today as a huge achievement, then said, “Well why don’t we go the whole hog,” but there are 11.1 billion reasons why we are not going to go the whole hog, and I am sure she understands that point.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh East said, “Well, I wouldn’t start from here”—and so say all of us. I do not think that any one of us would have chosen to inherit an annual deficit of £150 billion that had to be cleared up—[ Interruption. ] Members say from a sedentary position, “This isn’t about the deficit,” but a sequence of deficits creates a debt, which will be £1.4 trillion at the end of this Parliament, and that is both a capital sum and the interest that our children and grandchildren will have to pay, so we should take responsibility for it and tackle it.

Kate Green said that the Work programme does not do anything for older women, but its beauty is that providers do not get paid unless they tailor what they do to the individual in front of them. For example, we find that the biggest barrier for many potential older workers is IT skills; they are entirely job-ready but not necessarily up to speed with technology. So, if that is the barrier, the Work programme provider does not need to come to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for approval, as in the old days, asking whether it is on a departmental checklist; they just get on with it, help the person obtain the skills and are rewarded only if they get that individual a job.