Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:31 pm on 15th March 2023.
It’s going well, thank you. So today I take three steps to make it easier for those who wish to work longer to do so.
First, we will increase the number of people who get the best possible financial, health and career guidance ahead of retirement by enhancing the Department for Work and Pensions’ excellent mid-life MOT strategy. It will also increase by fivefold the number of 50-plus universal credit claimants who receive mid-life MOTs from 8,000 to 40,000 a year.
Secondly, with the Secretary of State for Education, my right hon. Friend Gillian Keegan, who has a deep personal commitment to this area, we will introduce a new kind of apprenticeship, targeted at the over 50s who want to return to work. They will be called returnerships and operate alongside skills boot camps and sector-based work academies. They will bring together our existing skills programmes to make them more appealing for older workers, focusing on flexibility and previous experience to reduce training length.
Finally, I have listened to the concerns of many senior NHS clinicians, who say unpredictable pension tax charges are making them leave the NHS just when they are needed most. The NHS is our biggest employer, and we will shortly publish the long-term workforce plan I promised in the autumn statement. But ahead of that, I do not want any doctor to retire early because of the way pension taxes work. It is an issue I have discussed not just with the current Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my right hon. Friend Steve Barclay, but a former Health Secretary who kindly took a break from WhatsApping his colleagues to consider it.
As Chancellor, I have realised the issue goes wider than doctors. No one should be pushed out of the workforce for tax reasons. So today I will increase the pensions annual tax-free allowance by 50%, from £40,000 to £60,000. Some have also asked me to increase the lifetime allowance from its £1 million limit. But I have decided not to do that. Instead I will go further and abolish the lifetime allowance altogether. It is a pension tax reform that will stop over 80% of NHS doctors from receiving a tax charge, incentivise our most experienced and productive workers to stay in work for longer, and simplify our tax system, taking thousands of people out of the complexity of pension tax. [Interruption.]