Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Lib Dems remain focused on the things people really care about”

Nick Clegg isn’t one for the pomp and pageant of parliament (he’s rather keen to let you know). He’s also keen to let you know that this week’s Queen’s Speech was “designed to build a stronger economy and a fairer society in Britain, enabling everyone to get on in life” (to quote Her Majesty). Over to Nick…

libdem letter from nick clegg

Fair pensions. Decent care in your old age. A tax cut for small businesses taking on staff. A major new high speed railway. Energy investment to keep lights on and bills affordable. Shared parental leave. Rehabilitation of prisoners to set them back on the straight and narrow.

Just a few highlights from the Government’s plans for legislation this year, outlined this Wednesday in the Queen’s Speech, designed to build a stronger economy and a fairer society in Britain, enabling everyone to get on in life.

The state opening of Parliament is an eccentric highlight of the year in politics. Pomp and pageantry are not really my thing, but I’ll confess to a certain affection for the whole rigmarole: you have probably seen the marching up and down and slamming of doors in people’s faces on TV. One thing you might not know is that we had to work to a very strict deadline to finalise Her Majesty’s words. That’s because the speech has to be written out on goatskin and it takes a few days to dry.

Plus of course, it’s rather fun to see my usually austere colleagues Alistair Carmichael and Dick Newby dressed up in robes looking like refugees from Hogwarts or a Gilbert and Sullivan production. One thing’s for sure: I’m relieved there aren’t any Deputy Prime Minister robes to wear.

What matters most is the substance of course. We made sure all the big measures needed to grow the economy, create jobs, and improve people’s quality of life were included. But we also made sure some things – plans for a Snooper’s Charter tracking everyone’s emails and social networking – were kept out.

It won’t have escaped your attention that the mood has changed in the Conservative Party after the local elections, and that changes the rhetoric we’re hearing from them – about equal marriage, development aid, and most of all Europe. The lesson for us is clear and simple: it is more important than ever that we stick to our path. Our job is to anchor the Government in the centre ground, stopping others from lurching this way and that and making sure the Government delivers our core objectives: a stronger economy in a fairer society.

That’s why major liberal reforms and investment – from childcare to pensions – will remain the core business of this Government. Not endless navel-gazing about when and how a referendum may take place in years to come in circumstances we can’t predict. We Liberal Democrats must remain focused on the things people really care about, whatever other parties may say.

Please could you forward this message on to a family member or friend who might be interested?

Nick

PS I hope you noticed the Queen mention the drive for a “stronger economy and a fairer society” in the very first line of her speech. I knew our message was starting to hit home!

To get Nick’s letters by email simply sign up here.

For those Lib Dem members wanting to receive Nick and the party’s emails, Mark Pack has produced a handy guide to help ensure you’re signed up: Why did I not get that email from the Liberal Democrats?

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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8 Comments

  • What is fair about having a two tier pension system, whereby existing pensioners,who will often have contributed for forty years or more,are kept on the lower rate? I think that once this is realised,many existing pensioners will be up in arms.

  • Helen Tedcastle 12th May '13 - 9:32am

    “The lesson for us is clear and simple: it is more important than ever that we stick to our path. Our job is to anchor the Government in the centre ground, stopping others from lurching this way and that …”

    As I thought – he wants us to become like the FDP.

    While the Tories are in meltdown, at least the Lib Dems will insist on honouring the Coalition Agreement on Europe. This isn’t a vision but a holding back operation – not something to get the blood pumping and the sinews stiffened though.

  • Before we worry about a new high speed railway, I’d like to see us stopping bizarre ideological right wing moves like re-privatising the East Coast Mainline.

    If we stand for anything it should be for pragmatism over ideology. Why do we continually let these absurdities through on the nod?

  • Bill le Breton 12th May '13 - 2:07pm

    Margaret,

    I think you make a very important point. The reform to the pension has many merits, so why restrict it to those born after April 15th 1951? As you say, where is the fairness in that? So I wrote to the Liberal Democrat Minister about it.

    I don’t think I was the first judging by the approximately 1,000 word reply I received from the Head of the Correspondence Team.

    I’ll risk reprinting it here for those who are interested, but for those who do not expect to reach pension age, I suggest you scroll down 😉

    Dear Mr le Breton

    Thank you for your recent correspondence, raising issues arising from Government policies which are the responsibility of this Department. Government Ministers receive a large volume of correspondence and they are unable to reply personally on every occasion. I have been asked to respond.

    You have has expressed the concern that those who remain on the present system are being treated unfairly compared with those who draw their pensions under the single-tier system. I can assure you that this is not the case.

    With regard to deferral I should make it clear that the reforms will be introduced from April 2016 and the new rules will apply to future pensioners only. Those reaching State Pension age before the reforms are introduced will continue to receive their State Pension in line with the current rules. They will not qualify for the single-tier pension.

    Where an individual has reached State Pension age before the single-tier is introduced and has put off claiming their State Pension, they will still qualify for either extra State Pension or a lump-sum payment, in line with current rules, when they claim their State Pension.

    The first thing to be aware of is that the proposed new system will not be any more generous overall than the system it replaces, although it will be much simpler. The Minister for Pensions has said that he can assure people that the Government is not spending extra money on new pensioners whilst ignoring today’s pensioners.

    The second crucial point is that the Government is not proposing simply to increase the pension from £110 per week for today’s pensioners to around £144 week for new pensioners. In fact, today’s pensioners receive a combination of a basic State Pension of up to £110 per week and an additional State Pension (formerly known as the State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme – SERPS – and since April 2002, as the State Second Pension) of anything between zero and over £100 per week on top of the basic pension. Future pensioners will simply build up towards a flat rate pension of around £144 – there will be no additional State Pension on top of this figure, so the maximum State Pension attainable under the new system will be significantly lower than under the current system.

    A third source of confusion arises from the fact that today’s pensioners who were members of a public service pension scheme or a private sector ‘final-salary’ type pension scheme are drawing a reduced State Pension because they were ‘contracted out’ of the SERPS. It is misleading to compare those pensions with the headline £144 figure. This is because the Government will apply a similar ‘contracted-out deduction’ to pensioners under the new system when the Government works out what pension they have built up by the time the single-tier pension is introduced in April 2016.

    I should also add that in some ways the new system will be less generous for those who retire after April 2016. For a full pension, they will require 35 qualifying years rather than the 30 years currently required for a full basic State Pension. They will in general have to wait longer for their State Pension, with women’s State Pension age rising to 65 by 2018 and then men and women seeing their State Pension age rise to 66 in 2020 and 67 by 2028. By contrast, those who draw their State Pension under the current system will generally have received their pension earlier, particularly in the case of women. There will also be less generous arrangements in the new system for those who would previously have drawn a State Pension based on the contributions of a spouse.

    Finally, I would stress that the pattern of workplace pension provision for those who retire in future decades is likely to be very different from that of earlier generations. For those in private sector employment in particular, access to a high quality final-salary company pension is likely to be the exception. Instead, people will find that they have to contribute more from their wages to a workplace pension whilst their employer contributes less than in the past.

    With millions of workers due to be automatically enrolled into workplace pensions it is vital that we have a State Pension system that is simpler – though not more generous – and that gives them confidence that if they stay in workplace pension saving it will pay to save. That is the principal focus of these reforms.

    I should also add that for those who are already drawing their State Pension or will do so in the next few years, our approach to uprating the basic State Pension will be much more generous in the long-term than it has been in the past. Rather than uprating each year simply in line with price inflation, the Government now uprates the basic State Pension each year by the highest of the growth in earnings or prices, with a floor of 2.5 per cent – the so-called ‘triple lock’. As a result of the Government’s triple lock policy, its latest estimate is that the average person reaching State Pension age in 2013 with a full basic State Pension can expect to receive an additional £12,000 in basic State Pension over their retirement, than under previous policies of uprating by prices. As a result, the basic State Pension will this year represent a higher share of average earnings than at any time since 1992.

    I hope that this is helpful in clarifying that the Government is not proposing to provide additional support to new pensioners at the expense of existing ones. The Government is committed to paying a decent State Pension to today’s pensioners as well as a simpler one to tomorrow’s pensioners.

    Yours sincerely

    Etc.

  • Bill
    Thanks very much for the reply.I am not sure that the letter you received will convince many and various ideas of the Government to raise the qualifying age, will sadly mean that many people will never get there, or will spend a worrying period where they are really unfit to work.
    It looks to me, as a non expert, that existing public sector workers, who were contracted out, could be the ones paying for this.
    It does not feel to be a fair policy.
    Regards
    margaret

  • But I care about the nasty bedroom tax,the increase in hours to qualify for for family tax credit, the exhortation to acquire the work habit when there is a million kids without jobs and 2.5 M unemployed.
    I wish Clegg cared about those things

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 13th May '13 - 11:02am

    @Nick Clegg
    “designed to build a stronger economy and a fairer society in Britain, enabling everyone to get on in life.”

    Really? Perhaps you should read this: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/132767

  • I qualified for the state pension in 2010 at the age of 60 but deferred it for 18 months. With the various twiddles relating to contracted out deduction I get £129.96 a week based on my own contributions. Take off the £11.90 which relates to the deferment and I get £118.02. This is a lot less than the £144 at today’s figures so you might conclude that I am not happy with the situation. If I was relying on the state pension and very little else, you would be right but fortunately, I’m not.

    I would point out that if the introduction of the new pension arrangements coincided with changes to other pensioner benefits like free bus travel and winter fuel allowance, there could be a perfect storm brewing up.

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