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Clause 32 — Commencement

Part of Concessionary Bus Travel (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 18th October 2011.

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Photo of Jennifer Willott Jennifer Willott Liberal Democrat, Cardiff Central 9:45 pm, 18th October 2011

It will not surprise hon. Members to learn that I welcome the Bill. The issue of women’s state pension age has been discussed in full already today, but there is much else in the Bill to be welcomed. Many of the measures have broad support across the House, as we have already heard this evening. Auto-enrolment is, as Glenda Jackson said, critical to many people who up to now have had no pension savings and have not been in a position to save for their retirement. It is fundamental, and I support it now as I supported it when it was proposed by the previous Government.

We have to get more people saving for their retirement. Far too many people have no savings at all, and when they retire they depend entirely on the basic state pension. It was not designed to provide an adequate living; it was designed as a safety net. But for an awful lot of people it is their sole retirement income, and that is something that we need to change. For years we have been grappling with how to get more people to save, especially those on the lowest incomes. Auto-enrolment is critical, because we need to make it as easy as possible for people to save. We need to make it as easy as possible for businesses to administer, so that it becomes a no-brainer: people will automatically save for retirement without thinking twice about it, and so put themselves in a better position for their retirement.

Pensions are such an important issue to get right. It is not glamorous, people do not understand it, and it is very complicated. Even when I have conversations with other hon. Members about it, their eyes often glaze over. It is not an issue that people want to discuss, but it is our duty to try to make it as simple as possible for people so that as many as possible have some savings put away for their retirement and can retire in more comfort. That ties in with what my hon. Friend the Minister said earlier about the need to get means-testing out of the system, so that people know that whatever they save while they are working will benefit them in their retirement. We need to ensure that a flat-rate pension is introduced as soon as possible so that people who work, on however low an income, know that whatever they put aside during their working lives will benefit them when they retire, that they will have adequate retirement pensions, and that they will not have to rely on just the basic state pension.

I am saddened that many hon. Members feel unable to support the Bill—