Every week, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore MP writes a column for newspapers in his Borders constituency. Here is the latest edition.
One of the Lib Dem’s top priorities since forming the Coalition Government has been to reform the State Pension and ensure that people can expect a fair and decent level of support when they retire. This is why we introduced the pensions ‘triple lock’ so that every year pensions would rise by either inflation, 2.5% or earnings and end the paltry 75p rises we saw under Labour. As a result of this triple lock, we delivered the largest ever increase to the State Pension of £5.30 a week back in April 2011.
Despite this important change, the Lib Dems believe that we need to go even further because the basic rate of £107.45 per week, even with the pensions triple-lock, is still not enough. Also, with the two state pensions we have in this country and the complicated rules, premiums and tapers that go along with them, many people don’t know what they’re entitled to and so miss out on support.
This week the Lib Dem Pensions Secretary Steve Webb announced additional reforms to the State Pension to tackle these problems and make it fairer and simpler. He outlined that the Government will be introducing a new single tier pension, which will apply to anyone retiring after 2017, of around £144 a week. This new pension will mean that for the first time, men and women will be treated equally and self-employed workers will also be included in the scheme. So Borderers, who decide to bring up children, become a carer or are self-employed will no longer lose out. This is a major step in recognising people who work hard and save to have a decent and dignified retirement and I am proud that the Lib Dems are delivering on this in Government.
In Westminster last week, I took part in Scottish Questions in my role as Secretary of State for Scotland. This takes place once every six weeks and is an opportunity for opposition and backbench MP’s to ask the Government questions relating to Scottish issues. During the session we discussed Scottish business and exports and I emphasised the importance of the UK’s global networks for both – something I believe is very important for all of us here in the Borders.
Farming and fishing
Looking at the year ahead, this is a particularly important time for local farmers and fishermen in the Borders with negotiations on the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies entering a decisive stage. With the UK as one of the largest Member States fighting the corner of Scots farmers and fishermen on these negotiations, I have no doubt that their concerns and needs will be heard loud and clear. As local MP and Secretary of State for Scotland, I have also been working closely with the NFUS and the Scottish Fishing Federation at this critical time to get the best deal possible for the Borders and Scotland.
* Michael Moore is the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.