Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 26 May 2011

On Saturday I popped in on the celebrations of a constituent who had reached the ripe old age of 100. I expected to find her semi-comatose in a wheelchair. Not a bit of it. She was as sprightly as a 70 year old, walking around greeting her guests, engaging in conversation on many subjects, enjoying her special day.

It is still a remarkable milestone to live to be 100, but experts have recently told us that over 50% of babies now being born will be centurions. When the current system of old age pensions was introduced after the Second World War, average life expectancy was 65 for a man and 70 for a woman. (Why do woman live longer?) That is why retirement ages of 60-65 were then reasonable. Now life expectancy is an impressive 78 and 82, which means that the pension budget has to fund 12 years extra per person on average.

The Pensions Bill about to come to the House of Commons will increase the retirement age for women between now and 2017 to 65. Between 2017 and 2020 this will rise to 66 for both men and women.

This looming crisis should have been tackled years ago, because the demographic trends have been apparent for many years. No government likes to pick fights with its own electorate, so these obviously unpopular decisions were shelved by the previous government. Now that our coffers are bare, we no longer have that luxury.

I broadly support this reform because we have no real choice. But one aspect of this concerns me. I am starting to get post from female constituents born around 1953 for whom the changes mean a loss of not one year's pension income, but in many cases, two. Given that retirement for them is just around the corner, this is a very harsh proposal. When the bill comes to the Commons I intend to be among those seeking to persuade the government to soften this blow. I will have to declare an interest, because Jan is included in this category!

The message has to go out loud and clear to younger citizens that because we are all living longer, we will have to work longer before we get into our pension entitlements. All western countries are facing the same challenge. But the changes must give people enough time to plan to manage their finances for their hopefully long retirement. Anything else would be unfair.

posted by Gary @ 17:49