Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of Ways and Means – in the House of Commons at 4:39 pm on 18th March 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West 4:39 pm, 18th March 2015

It was not falsifying. It was just taking things out that ought to remain. There is a record in the trail.

There are many things in the Budget on which hon. Members on both sides of the House can agree. Some measures could go further in future Budgets. I welcome the suggestion that farmers should be able to average their income over a number of years, but the same problem applies to a number of people in small businesses. A lot of people in small businesses work very hard for very long hours for very many years. They often do not make many profits. Sometimes they have good years and sometimes their business becomes worth a bit and they can sell it. The taxation arrangements are not easy for all of them—they are better for those receiving entrepreneurial relief. For other businesses, if people get a lump sum in one year, they should be able to spread it across a number of years, as under the provision for farmers.

I spend much time serving with hon. Members from both sides of the House on the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill Select Committee. A number of farmers, business people and local residents come to see us. My admiration for people in business, whether on the land or in offices or factories, has gone up a great deal. I am very impressed by the quiet way in which people get on with their lives and come to Parliament to petition when their interests are affected.

Some cannot easily come to Parliament. I say this to those on the Treasury Bench: whatever the reasons of money, I do not intend to tolerate for much longer the fact that half the pensioners in this country who retire overseas get inflation increases and the other half do not. The Government say that there is no money, but we are getting out of austerity and into prosperity. The background is chance. We did not have agreements with some of the Commonwealth countries—the old dominions —but we did with other foreign countries, and the EU requires us to treat EU citizens the same.

It is frankly wrong that someone who has worked in this country and retires overseas should be treated differently on different islands in the Caribbean, in Canada, in the United States of America, in South Africa and other African countries and so on around the world. It is one of those things that is just wrong.

The Chancellor made a number of good jokes, some of which had tax prices attached to them. He said he wanted a review of the variation of wills. If that provision is taken away, a lot of ordinary people will find that they have to revise their wills several times over a decade. Most of us do not know when we are going to die. Being able to vary the beneficiaries of a will is important. People do it not just for tax reduction, but because it allows them to take account of changing circumstances. We have all heard examples of people who have made wills that were right 10 years ago, but that are not right 10 years later. If a variation can be agreed, it is a sensible way to do sensible things. It is not just about reducing tax.

Arguing that the lifetime pensions allowance should be reduced to £1 million is one thing. Someone who has a pension entitlement with a capital sum behind it of £1 million is lucky compared with many, but it begins to look a bit tight for those savers who are reasonably successful in their earnings. I remember once prison visiting with a retired newspaper editor. He said to me, “Tell me about MPs’ pensions.” I did, and said, “What about you?” He said: “When I retired as a newspaper editor, I had a pension pot of £10 million with a pension of £1 million a year.” I said: “Some people have all the luck. And you accuse us of having our noses in the trough.”

I say to the Government that there are some areas where money should not be restricted too much. On housing, we clearly have to improve leasehold, which requires civil servants in the Department for Communities and Local Government to watch what happens. We also need to bring in commonhold properly and make sure that resources are such that managing agents and freeholders do not get away with abusing leaseholders. I am not saying that they all do that, but it happens too often.

Finally, a number of people aged 19 are still doing A-level-type courses in further education and sixth-form colleges. The funding arrangements are becoming too tight for them, so I ask the relevant Departments—the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Treasury—to ask themselves whether that is really their intention. They need to remember that they should not treat young people like racehorses by using their birthday as a rigid time to calculate how much money to spend on them. They all matter to us and I know that Members on both sides of the House care about that.

Annotations

Jeff Chipps
Posted on 20 Mar 2015 3:06 am (Report this annotation)

Mr Bottomley is quite correct when he says that "Some cannot easily come to Parliament." He's talking about the 4% of OAPs whose state pensions are unjustifiably and cruelly frozen for the rest of their days. This is despite them contributing to National Insurance on the same terms and conditions as the 96% of OAPs whose state pensions are NOT frozen, and who receive increases every year.
Of course they can't easily come to Parliament to petition or lobby, they're abroad, out of sight & out of mind. But that's wrong, the frozen pensioner with today's technology is never out of mind. For proof - you're reading this aren't you, and I'm thousands of miles away from the UK Parliament.
Just how this policy is so wrong as Peter Bottomley said, is also how illogical it is.
Picture your pension frozen for life in one county in UK but not frozen in another. Bags of cash in Bedfordshire but broke in Berkshire. Coining it in Cornwall but crumbs in Cleveland. Laughing in Lancashire but lost everything in London.
Not only would this be wrong, it'd be against any law written in the land, and against everything we stand for. But the government is doing precisely this, by paying OAPs in one country yearly increases to their pensions, and not giving any increases at all (for life) in another country. If it was a private company doing this, would they be allowed to get away with it, not a snowball's chance in hell, so why should the government get away with the theft of pensions paid for in good faith?

Jane Davies
Posted on 20 Mar 2015 4:29 am (Report this annotation)

Thank you Mr Bottomley for your continued support, there is no justification for this discrimination and the excuse about "austerity" is just that, an excuse. This injustice has been allowed to go on for decades when there has been no austerity so why was this scandal not ended when the country was doing very well? I remember after the Falklands war people were encouraged to re-locate, to boost the numbers and start businesses out there, indeed I know of one family who did just that, now those people on reaching retirement will find that their state pension is frozen, even though they have no doubt kept up their NI contributions, fine reward indeed! They should have gone to the US Virgin Islands instead where they would receive their rightful cost of living indexing. Note that the British Virgin Islands is on the frozen list....a complete and utter disgrace that anyone who has paid for the same pension should be treated in this shameful way. Time now to end this stain on the British reputation, time now for those who have the power to do the right thing.

Andy Robertson-Fox
Posted on 20 Mar 2015 9:06 am (Report this annotation)

Thank you, Sir Peter, for your continued support for the 550,000 UK expat pensioners who suffer the indignity of a frozen State Retirement Pension.

I am sure you are aware that within the last two weeks, and in reply to Baroness Floella Benjamin, the government minister Lord David Freud admitted, "bluntly it is about money" In other words all the references he and others in the past had made to honouring the European Convention on Human Rights enshrined in EU law, no bi-lateral agreements, long standing government policy and the rest are really nothing but red herrings.

As Lord Browne of Ladyton said in the Lords when discussing the Pensions Act 2014 - albeit in not so many words - "to do it now (uprate pensions) would raise the question of why we have not done it before"; or another way - quite simply we would lose face!

As has been pointed out by Jeff Chipps to uprate in Bedfordshire but not in Berkshire would clearly be ludicrous but is it not also ludicrous to uprate on one side of the street in, say, Derby Line because it is in the USA but not the other as it is in Canada?

Even though you use the phrase "treated differently" I use the word "discrimination" - discrimination does not have to be illegal even if morally unjust - and is contrary to the spirit and intention of the Commonwealth Charter which opposes discrimination on any grounds.

So the government, through Lord Freud, now admits it is about money. May I conclude with the words of Juliane Kokott, Judge Advocate General at the European Courts of Justice who said, "It must be realised that budgetary constraints are not justification for discrimination".

My pension is not frozen but, like you, Sir Peter, I campaign on a matter of fairness and justice as a matter of principle.

George Morley
Posted on 20 Mar 2015 3:08 pm (Report this annotation)

One cannot dispute the discriminative aspect of this freezing of what is a valid paid for pension given that the majority of pensioners that receive the uprating have not done anything extra to deserve the increases above this minority who do not.
Andy Robertson-Fox has mentioned the comment by Juliane Kokott to which I would add the case in the UK Supreme Court where they made a judgement for part time judges pensions in favour of the judges and Paul Epstein QC representing the plaintiff said,"The court decided in the end that all those reasons came down to cost, and that cost can never objectively justify discrimination".
So why should the frozen pensioners be any different.
Thankyou for raising this Sir Peter.

Philip Sale
Posted on 21 Mar 2015 4:45 pm (Report this annotation)

Thank you Mr Bottomley for the continued support on the matter of frozen pensions, something that the Government must rectify soon if they are to be given any credibility in their alleged support for all Pensioners.

Only today we are informed that there is billions of pounds of Government Aid money lying in accounts unspent, and will not be spent for years. Despite Government protests the funds are there to rectify this anomaly, they just have to show the willingness to change an age old regulation, and forget about loss of face.

Brian Lager
Posted on 21 Mar 2015 6:18 pm (Report this annotation)

Sir Peter.
Thank you for keeping this in the eye of the government. At almost 78 years of age, I still hold out hope that common sense will prevail.
The alternative is for my family and I to move back to the UK complete with medical baggage. Doing that will bring benefits for me but not for the British tax payer.
For me an uprated pension to current rates. For the government a suite of medical issues, between my wife and I, enough to make their eyes water. In addition I would get
free transportation, a TV licence, rebates on council taxes etc.
If this government really cared one iota for pensioners, we wouldn't be having this discussion because the issue would have been resolved long ago.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has been getting abysmal advice from the Treasury Board as to cost. We all know that that is not the case and it is just another red herring thrown into the mix.
Again thank you from my family for your perseverance on our behalf.

stephen ottridge
Posted on 22 Mar 2015 12:23 am (Report this annotation)

Sir Peter thank you for your efforts on behalf of those retirees whose pensions were frozen at their value at age 65 because they live in a Commonwealth country. Changing the pension policy to one that fits all retirees no matter where they live will make life simpler for those who toil in the pensions branch in Newcastle. You, I'm sure, know that a frozen pension retiree can apply for an updated pension for the time he spends visiting the UK and Europe. How much paper work is that for all concerned? Also us frozen pensioners are not benefitting from all the other UK government programs such as free bus travel and consequently we are saving the UK goverment the civil service admin costs of these programs.

Sheila Telford
Posted on 22 Mar 2015 12:46 am (Report this annotation)

Half a million "frozen" pensioners thank you for your persistence in this matter. I wish we could all live in your constituency and vote for you in the next election.
We don't but we will make sure that this campaign will continue with the dogged persistence you have shown until we have a just resolution.

Roger butler
Posted on 22 Mar 2015 1:15 am (Report this annotation)

I also wish I lived in your constituency for your support is so very much appreciated. We, the disadvantaged, must be supportive if we're to succeed.

Jane Davies
Posted on 22 Mar 2015 3:47 am (Report this annotation)

Having just found out about the billions in so called overseas aid sitting in a bank account I'm incensed that Lord Freud has the gall to say the reason for this continued theft of pensioners money is affordability. Words fail me.......

Norma Maloney
Posted on 22 Mar 2015 9:28 am (Report this annotation)

I and thousands of pensioners here in South Africa thank you Sir for your continued support in the fight for pension parity, I only wish that the other MP's and Lords and Ladies in Government had your mind set, you are an example of what should be a Government minister.
Here in SA, as they cannot afford the price of stepping up their security by putting up electric fences or paying for armed security on the property why would that be? because of their frozen pensions. Crime is on the increase and a lot of British pensioners are seriously contemplating returning to Britain, there are thousands of British Pensioners living here who's families have already returned to Britain.
Imagine if we were all to return, the cost of providing, housing, frail care, heating allowance, transport costs etcetera, as well as treatment from the NHS and not including their rightful pension paid for by their contributions to the NI Fund. How many pensioners who once lived in the past Rhodesia moved back to the UK? What did that do to the UK economy?

Julia Barnett
Posted on 22 Mar 2015 5:25 pm (Report this annotation)

I would like to add my voice of thanks to Sir Peter for his support of the frozen pensioners. We came to South Africa many years ago and paid into the British Pension while working in England and overseas contributions whilst living here in South Africa and still find it hard to believe that the British Government discriminate against us when SA is part of the Commonwealth. If we run out of money because of runaway inflation and no increases, then it will cost the UK far more to support us if we are forced to return to UK. I hope justice will prevail and some of the money showered on foreigners who have never paid into the system is directed to those that have !

CHRISTINE HARBEN
Posted on 23 Mar 2015 9:38 am (Report this annotation)

Thank you for speaking on behalf of those pensioners who have their pensions frozen.
Please continue to fight for them.
I emailed my MP (Robert Jenrick) and asked him to support this cause but unfortunately I did not receive a reply.