Steve Webb’s speech to conference

Steve Webb, Lib Dem minister for pensions, delivered his speech to conference earlier today. The text of his speech is below.

As some of you know, I used to teach at Bath University. And I enjoyed nothing more than setting my students tough questions to get them thinking.

So when I was planning what I would say today, I thought – why not set all of you a tricky exam question instead. You may have thought that you had come to Brighton for a good time. But not while I’m on the platform!

And my exam question is this: “How do you create a fair society when the country is broke?”

A decade ago, no-one even bothered to ask the question. Tax revenues were flowing and Labour ministers could easily find a few hundred million pounds for a pet project. Yet even with all that money at their disposal Labour missed their own targets for cutting child poverty and left the country more unequal than when they started.

So you might wonder what chance we have of creating a fairer society when we have to clear up Labour’s mess and take billions of pounds out of spending, including on people on low incomes.

But the good news is that applying Liberal Democrat values – and a bit of Liberal Democrat ingenuity – we are starting to lay the foundations for that fairer society, despite the dire financial inheritance from Labour.

You won’t be surprised to hear that my first example comes in the area of pensions.

For too long we have had a pension system that is bafflingly complex and produces poor outcomes for too many people.

For women, whose state pensions reflect a post-war model that treated them as housewives and dependants rather than people in their own right; for part-time workers who were often excluded from pension schemes altogether, and for carers whose time looking after others was simply not valued and led to poverty in retirement.

Not only did these groups often get a poor deal from the private pensions market but even the state pension system failed to treat them properly. That is not the hallmark of a fair society and that was why I, as a Liberal Democrat minister, was determined to do something about it.

Trying to come up with a pension reform that cost no additional money but which addressed long-standing injustices was a bit of a challenge. But I believe that is exactly what we have done, and that you can be proud of being part of the party that did it.

Once the new system is in place, the rules will be simple. Someone starting work will have to contribute for 35 years to get a full pension of around £144 per week in today’s money. That could be 35 years of paid work but it could also include time spent bringing up young children or caring for an elderly relative.

For the first time, a year spent caring for someone else will be valued as much as a year earning millions as a City high-flyer. That is Liberal Democrat fairness in action.

The rate of the pension will be set so that you are clear of the basic level of means-tested benefits. That means that if you work hard and save hard you will be better off than if you hadn’t. All too often at present older people tell me they wonder why they bothered to save because they feel no better off as a result. Fairness demanded that we had to change that situation, so we have.

The other big advantage of not relying so much on means-tested benefits is that we know that pretty much everyone claims their state pension. Far fewer people will miss out through not claiming the top-ups that they need. Instead, anyone who has put in the years will get a single, simple, decent state pension as of right. Liberal Democrat fairness in action.

But don’t just take my word for it.

I have spent much of the last three years making the case for these reforms to anyone who will listen. The mere sight of me approaching will clear a bar – perhaps with the exception of the Conference Bar!

But steadily we have been able to persuade people of the rightness of our cause.

The day after we published our White Paper, this is what the Daily Telegraph editorial said, and I quote:

“This is an important structural reform that the Labour government repeatedly ducked. The Coalition deserves credit for its willingness to take big, long-term decisions that will have little immediate political payback but will, over time, be of lasting benefit to the country.”

But looking round the Hall I get the feeling that not everyone here is a Telegraph reader…. Indeed I suspect we might have some Guardian readers in our midst….

So I thought you might like to know what the Guardian leader said on the same day:

“The first thing to be said about the overhaul of state pensions unveiled yesterday is that the Liberal Democrat minister, Steve Webb, deserves kudos for securing a rare reform in the genuine sense, of a progressive rationalisation. …It does have important merits: it is comprehensible, and also affordable enough to stand some chance of actually coming to pass in the cash-strapped years ahead. It is, then, on balance a simplification worth supporting.”

Given that the Guardian hasn’t exactly been a full-throated supporter of the Coalition, I think that’s pretty encouraging. But it’s not just when it comes to state pensions that we have been working to deliver fairness in difficult times.

On workplace pensions we have a growing unfairness that needed to be tackled.

Last year, across the private sector, only one worker out of three had any pension from their job at all – and that proportion has been falling for years. And you don’t need me to tell you which workers were typically missing out – women, the low-paid and part-timers.

That is why I was determined we should press ahead with little short of a revolution in workplace pensions to match our radical reforms of state pensions. From October 2012, and starting with the biggest firms, more than ten million people in work will, for the first time, have the right to a workplace pension with a contribution from their employer and from the Government. Their firm will choose the scheme and enrol people into it. Workers will be free to opt out if they wish, but if they stay in they will start to build up a pension of their own to top up the state pension.

And the early signs are that this policy is a stunning success. The early feedback from big employers is that the whole thing has gone much better than they expected, with the vast majority of employees deciding that they value their new pension rights and want to keep them.

Conference – this is a popular and successful Government policy – and you helped to make it possible!

Now there were many who said we shouldn’t do it. They said that with the economy being fragile we couldn’t put extra burdens on firms. That with family incomes stretched people wouldn’t have anything spare to put into a pension. And there were times when I feared that this whole programme would be stopped in its tracks.

But we persevered because we knew it was right and we knew it was fair. And this programme of automatic enrolment – which is being watched around the world – will be a long-lasting testament to our drive to create fairness in retirement.

Let me give you another example of how Liberal Democrats in Parliament have worked together with the wider party to make things fairer, this time for disabled people.

Just before Christmas the Government published some detailed regulations about new benefit rules for disabled people. I hadn’t been involved in working on them so the first I knew that there was a problem was when I had a text from a member of the Lib Dem Disability Association. I looked into the issue and quickly saw the problem. My concerns were shared by my colleague Stephen Lloyd who is our representative on the DWP select committee and by our colleagues in the Lords, Celia Thomas and Mike German. So we talked to the LDDA and the disability organisations and came up with a proposal to change the regulations which I then promoted with the Department. Soon afterwards, the Government laid amending regulations to deal with the problem. We can be proud of the way that we used our voice inside Government to get things done for disabled people that simply wouldn’t have been possible from the opposition benches.

Now what about the ‘Work’ bit of the Department for Work and Pensions?

Well one fairness that we have already delivered has been an end to age discrimination in the workplace. It is incredible to think that when we were first elected just three years ago it was still perfectly legal in this country to sack someone for turning 65, no matter how good they were at their job, no matter whether or not they wanted to continue. So whilst it was unacceptable and unlawful to sack someone because of their gender, their disability or the colour of their skin, it was fine to discriminate on the basis of age.

As Liberal Democrats we were determined to get straight on to tackling that injustice. So two Liberal Democrat ministers worked together – Ed Davey when he was employment minister and me with a responsibility for older workers – and produced a plan to sort out the details and within a couple of years this had become the law of the land. Where Labour had talked for years about doing something about unfairness, we got moving and have delivered this vital component of a fairer society.

But what about all those years before you retire?

I am clear that we need fairness both for those in work and those out of work, often through no fault of their own.

For those in work, our headline policy – of increasing the amount you can earn before you pay tax – will lead to the biggest ever increase in April 2013, cutting income tax for millions of working people on low and modest incomes, and halving the tax bill for someone on the minimum wage compared with 2010.

And we have to have a benefit system, which means that taking a job makes you better off.

It sounds so obvious. Yet for too many people in the past the move into work was a leap into the unknown. A low-paid job with variable hours and wages played havoc with your tax credits and housing and council tax benefits. Whilst life out of work was far from comfortable, an insecure low-paid job could so easily be little better.

We were determined to change that, which is why we have backed the new Universal Credit which will start to be paid to the first families next month and extended to millions more over the coming years.

Just as with our state pension reforms, the two key themes are simplicity and fairness.

Simplicity, means that instead of going to the DWP for your jobseekers allowance, HMRC for your tax credits and the Council for your housing benefit, all three payments come from one place on one system.

Simplicity because your credits this month depend on your income now, not some complicated, clawed-back, under-paid, over-paid, reassessed estimate of your income years ago.

Simplicity because each extra pound of income reduces your credits in a simple way instead of the complicated mess of overlapping rules that people faced under three different benefit systems.

And fairer, particularly for those on low incomes.

It is estimated that the Universal Credit will lift over half a million men, women and children out of poverty. It lets people keep more of their own wages, especially if they are a low earner. And it does away with many of the strange rules in the present system such as if you work 15 hours you are on one system but if you work 16 hours you are on another one.

Of course no new system will be perfect and the very gradual roll out of the Universal Credit will give time to iron out some of the rough edges. But it is both Liberal and fair to break down the barriers that get in the way of people who want to get a job, and we were right to have supported the principles of this new Universal Credit system.

Big structural reforms of pensions and benefits take time to introduce and at the same time as working on these plans we have also had to look at ways of reducing the growth in the overall benefits bill as a contribution to deficit reduction. At every turn, our priority has been to make sure that where savings do have to be made we are doing it in a fair way and protecting the most vulnerable.

For example, since our last conference we have taken difficult decisions about the way benefits will be uprated for the next three years. But following our Autumn conference resolution that we should make sure disabled people were not disproportionately impacted by any further benefit changes, we made sure in Government that the main disability benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance were excluded from these changes.

What has been amazing over the last three years has been to see the behaviour of the Labour party.

The shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is a man called Liam Byrne.

He is the one who famously left a note for David Laws when Labour left office saying “There’s no money left”.

So you might think that he would take some responsibility for the crisis in the public finances and would be coming up with ideas to tackle it.

But not a bit of it.

Instead, Labour opportunistically oppose every measure to get spending under control, never saying where they would have found the tens of billions of pounds of savings that their own spending plans recognised would have been necessary.

Where there should be a political party with a programme, there is simply a vacuum. A void. A vacancy. But it’s worse than that.

When we took the decision that some benefits should go up in line with the growth in public sector pay rather than the full rate of inflation, Labour of course opposed us in their usual knee-jerk way.

We were accused of the politics of division, setting those in work against those on benefits, when of course there is a big overlap between the two.

Now I don’t believe that we steer our country through difficult times by dividing people, but by uniting people. And I want to make it absolutely clear that as a Liberal Democrat I want nothing to do with the demonisation of people on benefit.

But what about our friend Mr. Byrne?

It turns out that when he is talking to his own party conference, he uses rather different language. It turns out that in his speech to his own party conference a few years ago he said: “Let’s face the tough truth—that many people on the doorstep at the last election felt that too often we were for shirkers, not workers.”

In 2012, he was at it again. During a speech at the London School of Economics, to what I imagine was a packed house, he said: “Labour is the party of hard workers not free-riders. The clue is in the name. We are the Labour party. The party that said that idleness is an evil. The party of workers, not shirkers.”

So there you have it. An opposition that attacks the politics of division but plays its own ‘dog whistle’ politics to demonise people on benefit. An opposition that created the financial mess but takes no responsibility for sorting it out. And an opposition that left pensions and benefits in a complex mess which we are sorting out through big, bold, fair, structural reforms.

So to those in the Hall who are facing Labour, I say this: don’t let them get away with it. Don’t let them try to convince people that they are somehow the party of fairness.

They are the party of the 75p pension increase, where we restored the earnings link with the state pension. They are the party that abolished the 10p tax rate, where we are taking millions out of tax altogether.

They are the party that has nothing to say about the big issues of the day on pensions and benefits, while we are putting in place reforms that will stand the test of time.

Conference, there is only one party in British politics which will bring you a stronger economy AND a fairer society. That party is the Liberal Democrats. And I urge you to join me in going out and spreading that message.


* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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  • I see (reference to 75p) he still doesn’t understand inflation.

  • Mark Inskip 9th Mar '13 - 9:31pm

    Remember at the time the Treasury had budgeted and therefore had the money available for for a £1.70 increase (2.5%). Under the state pension ‘triple lock’ which the coalition has now been put in place 2.5% is precisely what pensioners would receive in the same circumstances.

    Now the state pension rises by the higher of 2.5%, inflation or earnings. Pensions always use to rise in line with earnings. The Tories took that away and Labour in opposition repeatedly promised to restore it. Then in 13 years of power, with a booming economy, failed to restore it.

  • Patrick Smith 9th Mar '13 - 10:19pm

    The progressive reforms that have now accumulated to the majority of ordinary British families since the `Coalition Agreement’ are `the Pupil Premium’,`Abolition of Income Tax on the first- £10K soon to be £12.5 k- and the Steve Webb led DWP current Triple Lock State Pension and new pledged future `Fair State Pension’ i.e.`Citizens Pension’..

    The State Pension reforms will treat men and women equally for the first time, since Beveridge Report 1944.

    These necessary Reforms on Tax,Pensions and Education are in the name of fighting poverty for the least off and would be the envy of any progressive the British Government.

    They exist due to the progressive policy of the Liberal Democrats in government and should be seen to be so, by all discerning media, seeking to report what is actually happening in terms of presentation and substance, In Brighton and the Country.

  • George Morley 10th Mar '13 - 1:20am

    I was very interested to see what Steve Webb has to say today about pensioners and the frozen pensioners in particular as I recall him saying in 2004 :
    “All state retirement pensions in payment to pensioners living outside the United Kingdom shall be subject to annual uprating by the same percentage rate as is applied to such pensions payable to pensioners living in the United Kingdom.”
    And then again( prior to becoming the Pensions Minister) in 2007 : “That this House notes with concern that 520,000
    British pensioners living abroad have their pensions frozen in value and thus not increased when the pensions in the United Kingdom receive annual increases; believes the practice of freezing these pensions is wholly unfair, discriminatory and irrational especially when some pensioners living overseas do have their pensions increased annually; believes that all pensioners livinga broad, many of whom have made lifelong mandatory payments to their
    state pensions, are deserving of this annual increase; and urges the Government to bring forward proposals to end the evident unfairness in the current arrangements”
    The dissenting judges at the ECHR case in 2010, which the DWP like to refer to to ease their conscience while continuing the freezing, said :”Given the characteristics shared by both groups of contributors to the pension system, no relevant differences can be found to justify such a radical and unfavorable difference in their treatment, and the Government do not provide convincing reasons in this regard. The fact of residing in another country cannot be considered sufficient justification.” But then just last year he said on the 10th July 2012 at the European Committee B when answering Kelvin Hopkins “Although one pensioner living in poverty is too many.. etc” and he has not listened to David Cameron who continually says that the government want fairness for all pensioners.
    So after all of that, what do we find ? No mention of the frozen pensioners, because he is trying to forget that they exist as it just a mere 4% of all pensioners worldwide and they are’nt worth bothering about now presumably.
    The government cannot continue to allow this to be unresolved because this just shows how inadequate those in charge are when this is supposed to be a full examination of the pension system but they ignore this minority of existing pensioners.
    The most glaring example of the problem is with pensioners in the USA receiving the uprated pension while those next door in Canada do not.
    I have written to the Queen over this matter because this also puts her in a bad position due to the many agreements signed around the world with many organisations including the family of Commonwealth countries, many of which are the very countries that the freezing has been aimed at. These agreements are designed to reduce discrimination and poverty while the freezing promotes it especially if a pensioner only has the state pension and no other means or income They are signing on behalf of the Queen and her Majesty should not be placed in such a position.
    There is no excuse worthy of any government to deny a pensioner the paid for pension and a level playing field is needed. The country can afford it and to say otherwise is a lie when aid worth billions can be found to give away and prisoners in jail are treated to the best facilities as a punishment and the NI fund interest paid back is more than sufficient while the EU sponge 50 million per day.
    Finally, part time judges were recently awarded a pension that could cost the government 2 billion GBP apparently and the court decided that cost can never objectively justify discrimination.
    So what are you going to do about it Steve and the Liberal Democrats ?

  • Andy Robertson-Fox 10th Mar '13 - 6:52am

    George Morley can you imagine the scene…a LibDem Party conference and to mild applause the Pensions Minister approaches the rostrum and announces to the assembled audience :-

    ” Ladies and Gentlemen are you aware that for over sixty years successive governments have discriminated against a group of the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens (murmurs of agreement.) They have earned their pension just like everyone else but because of the totally illogical reason of living in one foreign country but not another the annual uprating of the State Retirement Pension is denied them! (cries of ‘shame’. shame”) Well when I was in opposition I campaigned for the abolition of this regulation; I even tabled an Early Day Motion to that effect and I vowed that I would do everything in my power to repeal it. (rapturous applause and cheering). Now, Ladies and Gentlemen I am in a position to end this iniquitous discrimination cos’ I’m a government minister – no need for red herring reciprocal agreements just a simple stroke of the pen and uprating is universal (cries of” Wow!”, “Gosh!” and “Bravo!”) And, let me say this. ladies and gentlemen, my boss, the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (waits for polite applause) as well as both the PM David Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne are in complete agreement with me (more cheering and clapping)…I am going to continue with this disgraceful frozen pension policy!” – (being LibDems the boos are muted)

    He did, of course, say this, but not in as many words…he just ignored the subject. However, you,George Morley, have nailed the topic brilliantly but I would not hold your breath for a worthwhile response from the Minister – I have been in correspondence with him through an MP…his replies provide absolutely no justification whatsoever for this policy.
    A policy which, as he has been warned but chosen, naively I believe, to ignore, will only be exacerbated as many more of the current working population in the UK – and especially those from the sub continent who would like to retire to the country of their roots – are unable to emigrate because of his short sighted policy thinking.

    So, yes George I support you and the other 550,000 frozen pensioners in asking the selfsame question – What are you going to do about it Steve and the Liberal Democrats?

  • This Pension Minister is not fair to existing pensioners at all. The increase from 2017 is 25% up on existing pensions, for only 35 years contributions for full basic state pension. Us who have paid 45 years for full basic,will receive 25% less (£36pw) for more contributions. So much for being fair, especially when in the 2010 Manifesto, you offered the new single tier pension for ALL, I repeat ALL. How are voters expected to believe anything LibDems have to say. Oh and by the way our bills are the same as everybody else, and don’t keep gloating about Triple Lock, because this is also available on new reform. Shame on you Webb and Clegg!

  • “He is the one who famously left a note for David Laws when Labour left office saying “There’s no money left”.”

    Oh puh-lease !

    I know it’s been a long time since the Liberals have been in government but your parrotting of this note is pathetic.

    Google Reginald Maudling and you will find the source of such notes:

    “Upon being forced out of the post by the election defeat, Maudling left a note to his successor, James Callaghan, simply stating “Good luck, old cock…. Sorry to leave it in such a mess.”

    Please behave like adults & drop the childish slagging off of possibly the LibDems next coalition partners !

  • Dennis Purvis 10th Mar '13 - 3:40pm

    Since Mr.Morley has just about covered it all, the only comment that I can make, is to ask Steve Webb to answer honestly , why he has reneged on his promise to end this shameful situation. No more lame excuses please. We’ve heard them all before, and all have been proven to be inaccurate.
    Come on Steve, do you have the courage to make a truthful statement on this? Can you give us just one believable answer? – The ball is firmly in your Court.

  • There are some strange comments on here. One utterly rambling piece which i am not sure about at all, but has it something to do with pensioners overseas having their pensions frozen?

  • Andy Robertson-Fox 11th Mar '13 - 2:41am

    Yes, Cogload, the Frozen Pension Scandal does, quite rightly, dominate comments on this thread.

    This is because in everything else Steve Webb said he totally overlooked this embarrassing for all politicians blatant discrimination. You write as if you have no knowledge of this government policy; you are not alone as the DWP and its forerunners are very reluctant to publicise it and this is why it is vital to give it greater prominence.

    On the assumption that your question is born of ignorance rather than seeking to troll my I briefly inform you that while the annual increase to the State Retirement Pension is paid to those pensioners residing in the UK, the EEA and a random group of countries like Bosnia Herzegovina, Israel, the Philippines, Barbados and the USA it is denied to pensioners living for example, in Commonwealth countries like Australia, Canada and Trinidad and non -commonwealth ones like Thailand . Their pension is frozen at the rate first payable in the country in which they have have retired…no increase…ever. But Webb, and previous Ministers, ignore the fact that country of residence is utterly irrelevant…the issue is about UK citizens not foreign governments.

    There is no justification for this.

    There is no legal justification – the ECHR ruling in 2010 did not make the payment of uprating anywhere in the world illegal. The inference in their literature that a reciprocal agreement with another country is necessary to allow uprating has long since been exposed a total red herring. Pensions could be uprated universally today if the government had the conscience and will to d so.

    There is no moral justification – these UK citizens, when working, contributed to the NI Scheme on the same terms and conditions as everyone else but now, in retirement, are denied the right to withdraw from the NI Fund on the same terms and conditions as everyone else.

    There is no financial justification – the NI Fund is in surplus to the current level of £28 BILLION and the interest the government has to pay on “borrowing” from the ring-fenced fund would pay the cost of the increase (£650 million) twice over.

    There is no administrative justification either – pensions are already paid world wide.

    When Steve Webb issued his Green Paper on Pension Reform he stated that one of his basic principles would be that of “fairness”. Can you, Cogload, justify this frozen pension policy as being “fair”? The Minister has been asked many times but he cannot or will not answer; nor will he explain his apparently hypocritical about face from his championing of the frozen pensioner’s cause when in opposition.

  • Gerry Mandering 11th Mar '13 - 3:44am

    Hmm… strange comment by one cogload it seems . Perhaps I can answer your questions. Fire away.
    For me, I would like to know exactly what Martin B is asking ? The comments seem easy enough to comprehend.

  • Andy Robertson-Fox 11th Mar '13 - 1:29pm

    I wonder if i might draw the Minister’s attention and that of the coalition government and, indeed, readers of this article that today, Monday 11th. March 2013 Her Majesty The Queen signed a Charter of Equal Rights as agreed by 54 Commonwealth Countries?
    It states countries are “implacably opposed to ALL forms of discrimination on grounds of gender, race, colour …..OR OTHER GROUNDS ”
    Perhaps the Minister or any knowledgeable individual can justify how the current frozen pension policy is exempt from the “OTHER GROUNDS” stipulation in the Charter, please

  • Jane Davies 11th Mar '13 - 3:24pm

    The DWP like to hide behind the travesty of justice that was experienced at ECHR regarding the frozen pensions, but what they fail to acknowledge is the views expressed by the dissenting judges. These judges could see this discrimination of the 4% was wrong, they understood the facts and got it right. I quote “Given the characteristics shared by both groups of contributors to the pension system, no relevant differences can be found to justify such a radical and unfavourable difference in their treatment, and the Government do not provide convincing reasons in this regard. The fact of residing in another country cannot be considered sufficient justification.” They understood the rights of the few are being denied for no logical reason. Eligibility for a state pension is dictated by ones contributions, not where one lives once retired. ALL state pensioners paid for their pensions with their hard earned money, ALL are entitled to withdraw on the same terms as everyone in the scheme, the money in the NI fund belongs to those who have paid in, this is NOT government money and no government has the right to withold cost of living increases to the few who are really suffering hardship, many older citizens are recieving less than £10 a week. I quote David Cameron “I know these are difficult times…but my promise to pensioners is that we are on your side”. Well, go tell that to the frozen few who are ignored by everyone and were promise before the last election by Steve Webb that this injustice would end.

  • @Gerry Mandering

    “For me, I would like to know exactly what Martin B is asking ? The comments seem easy enough to comprehend.”

    I would like to know what question you are referring to !

    My comment is quite clear & is not a question but for the avoidance of doubt, I will repeat it for you:
    “He is the one who famously left a note for David Laws when Labour left office saying “There’s no money left”.”

    Oh puh-lease !

    I know it’s been a long time since the Liberals have been in government but your parrotting of this note is pathetic.

    Google Reginald Maudling and you will find the source of such notes:

    “Upon being forced out of the post by the election defeat, Maudling left a note to his successor, James Callaghan, simply stating “Good luck, old cock…. Sorry to leave it in such a mess.”

    Please behave like adults & drop the childish slagging off of possibly the LibDems next coalition partners !
    See, no question marks just an appeal to quit slagging off possibly the next coalition partners. The continued swipes are boring as hell & just make the parliamentarians look childish & immature.

  • Jane Davies 11th Mar '13 - 6:37pm

    As far as I can see there is no “slagging off” going on here. What I can see are comments by very angry pensioners who are not being treated fairly. Especially those let down by the pensions minister who tabled an EDM about the frozen pension injustice, who made out when he was in opposition that he was on their side, then once he was in a position to end the disgraceful policy did nothing. You may not like hearing the truth, but last time I checked UK citizens have the right of free speech, if you only wanted comments from LibDem supporters to comment how well this almighty horlicks of a pension reform is then you should have state that in article.

  • Jane

    I was referring to the MPs who refer to ‘Labours mess’ every time they speak. I did not accuse other posters of slagging anyone off.

    The initial quote to which I was responding “He is the one who famously left a note for David Laws when Labour left office saying “There’s no money left” was in the article above written by Steve Webb.

  • George Morley 11th Mar '13 - 7:14pm

    Having read the comments as they came in.
    It would seem that you did not make yourself clear Martin B because others took it the wrong way.

  • Jane Davies 11th Mar '13 - 7:30pm

    OK Martin, your comment then was misleading, it sounded as though you were referring to the comments left by the people who are fed up to the back teeth by the DWP and so called caring pensions ministers. I’m glad you clarified your meaning.

  • I put the quotation marks around the quote.

    I am unsure what else I am supposed to do – it seems to be what everyone else does on this site.

    If I had been referring to a comment posted by another reader I would have directed my comment to that person using the @ NAME as I did when responding to Gerry Mandering above.

    I had assumed that the use of quotation marks & not naming anyone would suggest that my comment was at the author of the article & that it would have been obvious because you would all have read the remark I was quoting when you read the article before making your own comments.

    But enough – I have made myself clear already & at least I bothered to return to do so unlike Gerry Mandering who accused me of asking a question when no question was asked & no question mark used in my post.

  • Mr Webb.
    Your speech seems to have generated a lot of criticism about your treatment (or rather non-treatment) of 4% of Britain’s state pensioner population, namely the frozen pensioner. You must be wondering if you’ve said anything that’s supportable. Well I’ll support you!!

    You said “For too long we have had a pension system that is bafflingly complex and produces poor outcomes for too many people.”
    You are so right!! Overseas pensioners affected by the Frozen Pension Policy have been enduring this injustice and discrimination for over 60 years!!

    “Bafflingly complex” you say – you bet it is!!! Frozen in Canada but not USA – frozen in Japan but not in Germany – frozen in New Zealand but not in The Philippines – frozen in Thailand but not in Iceland. I could go on, but the list is much too long!

    You stated that it “produces poor outcomes for too many people” Does 560,000 ring a bell? That’s the number of UK state pensioners that will never, ever see a raise that your policy has produced. They have a very poor outcome – I hope you’re very proud, and once again you’re so right!!

    When you said “Trying to come up with a pension reform that cost no additional money but which addressed long-standing injustices was a bit of a challenge” Again, you spoke the truth!!
    As I said earlier the pension policy that freezes my pension has been in existence for over 60 years, and if that’s not a “long standing injustice” I don’t know what is!!
    A “pension reform that costs no additional money”??? You’ve got that too.
    With the National Insurance Fund surplus running at around £29 million and rising (last time I checked) this of course being the fund I paid into for 40 years – well there’s the money – and it doesn’t cost you a penny because I paid into it!!
    “A bit of a challenge”? I’ll say! It is a challenge trying to pay ever rising bills with an income from a pension that in reality is falling! So you got that right too!!

    A line I’ll always remember is “All too often at present older people tell me they wonder why they bothered to save because they feel no better off as a result.”
    You sir, read my mind!! I paid voluntary contributions to the DWP, on top of my regular NIF contributions, to try and offset the financial loss I was experiencing at the hands of your policy. Just why did I bother? Because my pension is frozen Mr Webb – that’s why. And yes, you’re right in saying that I feel no better off as a result.
    Spot Mr Webb, spot on!!

    So I’ll support you! I’ll support you when you change this cruel policy you promised to when you were in Opposition.
    I’ll support you, when you stop the discrimination that you and so many others in the British government, have spoken – but done nothing – about for as long as I can remember!
    That’s when I and the 560,000 other frozen British state pensioners will support you, and not a minute before!

  • Jane Davies 12th Mar '13 - 3:48pm

    The Queen has just signed a new Commonwealth Charter to stamp out discrimination in all forms. So will the UK government contravene this new ruling as well as the ruling in The Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act and the other Commonwealth agreements to stamp out inequality and poverty by blatantly discriminating against just 4% of state pensioners just because of where they live?

  • Prannee Young 13th Mar '13 - 1:02am

    Political parties contesting an election and before make promises and commitments in speaches and manifesto’s. When and if they come into power they do a complete 360 on some commitments.

    Mr Webb, what caused you and your party to turn your back on the frozen pension issue, breaking your promise and possibly the hearts and minds of some 520,000 pensioners?

    Clause 20 of the proposed Pension Bill shows your intent not only to “knife us in the back”., but to keep turning it.

  • George Morley 13th Mar '13 - 11:56pm

    I am amazed by by the silence on this website from any LibDem member ! It is deafening ! Wha t is wrong then ?
    It should be important to you to reassure voters that your word is your bond and not just an excuse to get a vote. We are all waiting and listening !

  • Bran Corriga 14th Mar '13 - 8:33am

    I cant add very much to the comments that have already been succinctly put. What I can say is that the people who made promises to end the disgraceful policy of freezing pensions and then changed their minds once they got the keys to the house will be remembered when the time comes.

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