HL Deb 17 May 1985 vol 463 cc1337-9
Lord Molloy

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the future of the state earnings-related pension scheme.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, all aspects of state financial provision for retirement have been considered as part of the social security review. The Government hope to publish their proposals in a Green Paper soon after the Whitsun Recess.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the noble Minister for that reply. Does he not agree that what he has really stated is that the principle of SERPS, as it is popularly known, is now in grave jeopardy? Is he aware that at its creation in the early 1970s it obtained the benediction of massive support from all political parties in our country, from all sides of industry and commerce and from the British Medical Association, as it was designed to avoid poverty in the 21st century? Would it not be wise for the Government to leave this very valid scheme as it is, so that it can reach fruition and play the role intended for it by all parties in this great British Parliament?

The Earl of Caithness

No, my Lords; unfortunately the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is wrong. He will have to wait and see what is in the Green Paper.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is also wrong historically, in as much as the first earnings-related pensions in the national insurance scheme were provided for by the National Insurance Act 1959?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend.

Lord Banks

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that some of us never wanted a state earnings-related pension scheme, but wanted a higher basic pension and would be prepared to agree to the abolition of the earnings-related pension if, and only if, it were accompanied by a substantial increase of something like 25 per cent. in the basic retirement pension?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Banks. Indeed, I read his letter in the Daily Telegraph in which he stated on behalf of his party that they were not in favour of SERPS. He, too, unfortunately, will have to wait until the Green Paper is published to see what is in it.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, can the noble Earl assure the House that this Green Paper will be a Green Paper as traditionally understood, in that it will be a series of suggestions and thoughts which can be discussed and altered; or are the leaks to the press correct in suggesting that the Government have in fact made up their mind and that this will be the most rigid Careen Paper ever?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, a Green Paper is a Green Paper and is there for consultation; and there has been fantastic consultation in preparing it.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, is it not a fact that no matter how well thought-out plans are, changes in population and age groups do necessitate a review and a rethink of these issues?

The Earl of Caithness

Yes, indeed, my Lords. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes. The reasons for the social security review on a wide basis are well known to take account of that.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I think the Minister should be aware that my own party will be particularly opposed to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, that they can be bought off with an increase in the basic pension. Does the Minister not agree that the record of his Government has shown that by the inflationary process that basic increase could be eroded very quickly?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am not sure about the noble Lord's inference about what I should know. I know that pensions have been more than protected under this Government as promised. As for the Opposition's policy on social security, I am not sure that any of them know. I sympathise in particular with the noble Baroness opposite who has to stand there speaking for the Opposition when Mr. Meacher comes out with some of the remarks that he does.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend to confirm that the 1959 Act to which he has referred is perfectly clear? The Minister at that time was the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and I was his Parliamentary Secretary.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, in that case I am sure that it is more than clear.

Lord Oram

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of us on this side of the House recall that it was indeed the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who introduced the Bill in 1959, and that we also recall that what he introduced was a very bad bargain indeed?

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Minister aware that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, fulfilling his normal curate's egg role, is partially right, but that the fundamental concept was introduced under the then Labour Government by the late Richard Crossman? It was examined by all parties, by all sides of industry and by the medical profession. Can the Minister say that on this White Paper, Green Paper or whatever it is no action will be taken so far as the statute book is concerned until discussions are held between all the political parties, all sides of industry and the medical profession in precisely the same way as the Labour Administration did when they created SERPS to avoid poverty in the 21st century?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, and the Government are on common ground. We want to see the best for the pensioners.

Back to