Pensions Minister visits Burnley

Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP
Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP

PENSIONS Minister Steve Webb visited Burnley to discuss public and private sector pensions.

The Liberal Democrat MP was in town to speak to staff at Asda about the Pensions Act 2011, which will mean all private companies will have to offer a pension scheme for their employees.

First announced by the previous Government in 2008, the Coalition Government has amended the plans which will come into force for larger employers in October and then smaller companies over the next five years.

The Government has come under fire for proposed changes to public sector pensions, which workers say will mean them working longer for less, and prompting national strikes.

Mr Webb said: “The new scheme for the private sector will see employers, the government and the employee make a contribution.

“Many private sector firms do not currently have a pension scheme and this is something we want to change.

“A lot of young people don’t think about pensions and it’s important we change this attitude. We have to get people into pensions at a young age.

“There’s a big disparity between public and private sector pensions and the gulf has grown in the last 10 years.”

Mr Webb said the Government’s contribution to private pensions would come from income tax contributions.

When asked about the anger the Government’s proposed changes to public sector pensions had aroused, Mr Webb said the Government could not afford to go on paying the same amounts.

Proposed changes include raising the state pension age to 67 and linking inflation up-rating to the Consumer Prices Index rather than the Retail Prices Index.

He added: “The retirement age of 65 was set in the 1920s. Clearly, people are living longer these days and something had to change.”

Mr Webb also refuted the suggestion that making people work to an older age would harm the chances of young people finding work.

“The Government in the 1980s tried to pension people off early in the Job Release Scheme to get more young people into work but it didn’t work.”

Mr Webb also visited the Burnley Pension Centre in Simonstone, said to be the best performing in the country, where he chatted to staff.

He added: “Everyone there puts a lot of effort into their job and pride in what they do.

“It was a pleasure to meet them.”