Living Standards

Part of Opposition Day — [Un-allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:22 pm on 30th November 2011.

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Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham 6:22 pm, 30th November 2011

I am very sad that people have seen fit to go on strike today, and I regret it a great deal. I am very pleased that only about 135,000 people seem to have gone on strike, and that they amount to only about one third of those who could have gone on strike.

Some people seem to be happy with the strikes—and in my family they are two teenage girls, whose schools have been closed today. I am very unhappy about that, so my standard of living has, indeed, been touched. I presume the reason why people have gone on strike is to try, ostensibly at least, to retain a high standard of living when they are pensioners—so they think.

I am very pleased to hear for the first time today that we are living 10 years longer than we did in the 1970s, but somehow we have to find the means to look after those people properly until the end of their life, and no one in the House wants to do anything but that.

When I left the services, I tried to ensure that I had a decent pension, and I saved hugely, but in almost two months I lost 20% of what I had saved, and I had saved about one third of what I had made since I had left the Army. So I understand what happens when one loses a lot of money in a pension fund, and I was horrified.

I understand that private sector workers would have to put about 30% more into a pension pot if they wanted a similar pension. We would all like to raise pensions, but we just do not have the money. Let us remember that about 20% of the people who work in the United Kingdom are paid directly or indirectly by the Government. The Office for National Statistics suggested in June that, accounting for gender, age, occupation, region and qualifications, a public sector worker earns on average 7.8% more an hour than a private sector worker.

It is interesting that we all want pensioners to have the best quality and standard of life right until the end. I do not disagree with Members on either side of the House when they say that we should do everything in our power to get pensioners everything they want. I am pleased that those who earn a salary of up to £15,000 on full-time equivalent will not have to pay any more and saddened that others will have to pay more until they retire to provide the means for decent pensions. The Prime Minister said earlier that a nurse earning £34,000 will get a pension of £22,000 when she retires. I am sure that all of us in the House—[ Interruption. ] Hon. Members can barrack all they want, but all of us agree on one thing: we want to give our pensioners the best possible standard of life until they drop down. We all agree on that, but it is how we do it that matters.