[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair] — Pensioner Poverty

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:30 am on 23rd February 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 10:30 am, 23rd February 2010

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I cannot take an intervention with so little time left.

Members have discussed a default retirement age, and the best that the Government could say on that after 13 years is that a review is being undertaken. That is pathetic. Injustice is injustice. Being discriminated against because of one's age and the idea that one's fitness for a job depends on the date on one's birth certificate is nonsense. Are we really in the 21st century? Do we need a review? Should we not get on with it? I joined Mr. Waterson, with whom I seem repeatedly to be joined at the hip on these occasions, at a pensions dinner last night, and he announced to an expectant world that the Conservatives have decided to scrap default retirement ages. I am delighted that they followed us in a case that we have been making for years. There is great joy in heaven when a sinner repenteth, so I welcome him to the fold. That is a good step, and hopefully, as in so many areas, the Liberal Democrats lead the way, the Conservatives follow and finally the Government will implement the change. Incidentally, I could not help noticing that there were more ex-Conservative Members in the Chamber this morning than current Conservative Members.

The issue is not just one of retirement age-annuities have been mentioned. My hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire made the point about compulsory annuitisation, which is something we need to end, but it is a bigger issue than that, as I am sure she would agree. When people reach pension age, roughly one third choose to stay with their current provider, and do it without thinking about it, about one third look at the alternatives but stay with their current provider and about one third switch. The evidence is that many people could simply get a bigger pension by shopping around, and the open-market option should be taken up much more highly. It is not a particularly partisan point, but I think that Governments should do much more, whether through behavioural economics or other means, to nudge people away from the latent assumption that one stays with one's current provider.