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Have you got questions for the Labour spokesperson on pensions?

(74 Posts)
GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 11-Jul-11 16:44:59

Rachel Reeves, who speaks for the opposition on pensions, will be coming on Gransnet for a webchat on Tuesday 26 July from 1-2pm. If you have any questions for her - on pensions, politics, or anything else - please add them here.

glammanana Mon 11-Jul-11 17:09:05

Please explain to me why my DS who was one of the first to go into Iraq and
has since come out of the Armed forces cannot get any decent housing for
himself,he trained as a medic and was very experienced in his job,a job which
he loved but now he has to rent privately as the local council will only rehouse
people who are classed as homeless,something is very wrong with the system.

Why should my benifits be affected if I take a part time job for 10hrs a week
and give my life experience to the employer concerned (Local Council)and be
penilised for it.

Joan Mon 11-Jul-11 23:50:39

Why are our British pensions, which we paid for under a contributory scheme, not index-linked when we live in Australia?

em Tue 12-Jul-11 00:31:56

I've read several articles which indicate that not giving the proposed £145 'new' pension to existing pensioners will involve a huge amount of bureaucratic cost - far more than if everyone receives it. It seems that phasing out the current means testing will be more expensive than simply switching to flat-rate pensions. So from this point of view as well as the perception of fairness how do you explain this differentiation in entitlement?

absentgrana Tue 12-Jul-11 09:14:28

Joan Too right. I am hoping to emigrate to New Zealand if the visa process ever comes to an end and British pensions there are frozen at the value they have when you leave the country. The government has said it's something to do with not having a reciprocal arrangement as they do with EU countries, but I can't understand that as contributions were paid to the British government and pensions are paid by the British government. I think there are also anomalies with other non-EU ex-pats who do get the increase.

Joan Tue 12-Jul-11 11:38:01

Well, with reciprocal agreements, they knock off the same amount from your local pension, as you get from the UK, so the country you move to has a vested interest in ensuring you get as much as possible, because the more you get from the UK, the less your new country has to pay. For instance, I worked 4 years in NZ and get a pension from there that equates to A$40 a fortnight, so the Australian system knocks off $40 a fortnight from what they pay me.

However, the Australian system lets my husband and me keep our small UK pensions as they are below a certain amount. So a reciprocal agreement would not help us. Giving us the pension rises would be a huge help, and it seems unfair that our UK pensions will effectively shrink as time goes by, as we contributed to the system at quite a high cost to us and our employers.

Barrow Tue 12-Jul-11 13:23:44

My husband and I are in receipt of my state pension and 2 very small private pensions and as we have savings above a certain level are unable to obtain any benefits. Whilst I accept that money should be used to help those who have very little I do feel there is a case for basing Council Tax benefit on income rather than on what savings are held. I have a friend who is on benefits and receives relief on her Council Tax even though her income is more than ours.

To a certain extent I can control how much I spend on outgoings, food, heating, insurance and the like but I have no control on the amount of Council Tax I have to pay - currently we pay around £40 per week. If I don't pay that I will be taken to court. If just Council Tax benefit was based on income I am sure it would help a large number of people who have tried to make provision for their old age but are on a limited income.

absentgrana Tue 12-Jul-11 14:09:06

Barrow When did they change the rules on council tax benefit? In the days when I used to handle my mother's finances and correspondence for her, I think it was her income, not her savings that mattered. I'm horrified to learn that it's the other way round now.

Barrow Tue 12-Jul-11 14:16:23

Absentgrana - when my husband was diagnosed with cancer he was unable to work so our income dropped like a stone. I applied to our local authority for relief on the Council Tax and was told we had too much savings. I was told by many that I had been too honest in letting them know how much we had!

Carol Tue 12-Jul-11 14:58:02

I want to know whether the proposal to limit the £140 equivalent pension to new claimants will be reconsidered to include existing pensioners. Why should those of us who have paid for longer be discriminated against when we clearly need this money as much as new claimants?

crimson Tue 12-Jul-11 15:34:38

I'm due to get my pension when I'm 61 3/4; I'd like some reassurance that, when the time comes, that date will not be changed. I'm also concerned that I won't get a bus pass or reduced train fares. I was very much looking forward to both of those, partly because from an envirinmental point of view I would prefer to use public transport whenever possible, but can't afford to do so. I would imagine that the majority of shoppers in the new shopping complex in my city are people using their bus passes; it's the shops that will miss out by having fewer customers. I'd also like to point out that I'm 59 and divorced; I have a very small private pension to look forward to, my house has devalued dramatically over the past couple of years and, even if I did try to sell it and downsize I'd probably struggle to sell it in the current climate. I'm actually very scared to face the future..something that, living in this country I never thought would happen. I'd also like to ask why utilities bills are going up all the time and why nothing is being done to stop this happening. I don't understand why British Gas are constantly putting their prices up when their holding company, Centrica seem to be making record profits which are then passed on to their shareholders.

borstalgran Wed 13-Jul-11 09:01:21

I paid 6.25% of my income into a pension, my employer 13.5. We tax payers pay 31.6% of their salary into MPs pensions. Don't see them looking for cuts.
I am lucky to have an indexed linked pension, I accept that. Isn't it time we brought our pensions up to European standards in both public and private sector? Seems this lot want to bring us down to the lowest common denominator, rather than seeking a good deal for all. the public sector is more unionised, so has more clout, something Vince cable wants to stop. Unions can do a good job; the younger generation have forgotten about their role in employees' rights, so find unionisation an expensive luxury they don't need.
My older daughter has no pension as yet; can't afford it, but she should have no choice but to pay in. We are living in what will be our children's pension pot. Hope it's worth something when we shuffle off!

absentgrana Wed 13-Jul-11 11:37:19

Joan Thanks for that information, but I am already entitled to a state pension in the UK – one of the very last women to get it just after my sixtieth birthday. I shall not, of course, be entitled to a state pension in New Zealand, if I ever get the visa. I don't understand why I am not entitled to the increases in state pension that I would get automatically if I were still living in the UK. Sorry – having trouble with tenses and conditionals here.

sylvia2036 Sun 17-Jul-11 16:44:20

May I ask why we are asking a Labour spokeswoman anything? Her party have already had a good go at pensions already (to the detriment of many people), they are not in power (and hopefully won't be for a long time) and therefore will not be in a position to do anything about pensions, or anything else for that matter, for a very long time.

I know I'm probably risking the wrath of a lot of people for posting the above but sorry ladies, it's how I feel and I have kept it short.

JessM Sun 17-Jul-11 17:02:27

Maybe the government spokes-person too busy. Often the way.

Gally Mon 18-Jul-11 12:41:56

Well said Sylvia!smile

helshea Mon 18-Jul-11 13:20:48

Dear spokesperson, How much exactly will your private pension be when you retire?

sylvia2036 Mon 18-Jul-11 14:06:15

Thank you Gally
helshea Well said.

Nellsy Wed 20-Jul-11 16:40:56

Well done helshea, I dont think we will get an answer to that!

Having said that I do think the pension system had to change. I am included in the change and have to wait another 1 year and 8 months for my pension. All women around the age of 50-60 are the group most suffering with this.

beolivia Thu 21-Jul-11 20:32:13

Although I am 68 I expect to work until I am at least 70 as my pension is very low. After living abroad for many years I returned to the UK when I was 55 and eventually found work, since when I save as much as possible to try and provide for my retirement but feel I am being silly in trying to behave responsilbly and would be better off spending everything I earn and expecting the state to provide!

Barrow Sat 23-Jul-11 09:17:26

I have to say I agree with beolivia to some extent. Those of us who have been responsible and tried to make provision for our old age are being penalised whilst those who spent every penny they had as and when they got it can sit back whilst the state looks after them. I know there will be many disagreeing with these thoughts, but as I have mentioned before my biggest expenditure is Council Tax which I have no control over and with which I can get no help because I have savings over a certain amount, yet those who have not saved and who receive pension credits and other benefits can have a higher weekly income that I do and still get help with Council Tax. Yes I know some people didn't earn enough to save for their retirement and I have no problem with them receiving all the help they can get but we all know people who are happy to sit back and let the state pay for everything. I am sorely tempted to book a cruise and spend all my money so the state can then look after me!!!!

Sorry that was a bit of a rant but it is something I feel strongly about.

grandmabet Tue 26-Jul-11 10:11:57

Carol

I do so agree with you about the inequality of everyone receiving the same pension regardless of how much they have paid into it. I suppose it will be fair in the long run, but it is somewhat galling to think that someone who worked very little outside the home will receive the same pension as those of us who worked our socks off both inside and outside. The trouble with all these things is that there has to be a cut off point and nobody seems able to work out a fair system. Bit like my friend who is almost 60 and expected to receive her pension but has been told she has to wait another 2 years!

absentgrana Tue 26-Jul-11 10:24:23

grandmabet On the face of it, it does seem unfair, but then when you think about people (mainly women) who have cared for a disabled child and/or elderly relative and so were unable to go out to work …

grandmabet Tue 26-Jul-11 10:31:48

Another thing which worries me is the uncertainty about private pensions in these uncertain times. Are there any safeguards in place if a company's pension plan collapses? DH has a pension and we keep on receiving letters from the company which, when reading between the lines, indicate that it could well go bust. Do we have any redress anywhere?

NanaTee Tue 26-Jul-11 10:31:56

I have worked while raising a family & paid a "reduced stamp" a married women's stamp since 1974. Friends who have paid a full stamp for a short while & then given up work have claimed credits for their years of childcare & now earn a full Pension in their own right. This does not seem fair. I have offered to pay a top up but this is not allowed. I understand that there are about 300,000 Women who may be similarly affected. How will this be dealt with under the new Pension arrangements?

grandmabet Tue 26-Jul-11 10:33:39

yes, Absentgrana, I completely agree, and that is the problem. We need some mastermind in government who can work these things out to make it fair for all - pie in the sky?!

PierreMaurice Tue 26-Jul-11 10:46:43

How much is it going to cost the Government to contribute to the new NEST system? If the government put that money into the state pension to which we are already paying towards our stste pensions, how much better would the state pension be with that money added?

Secondly, why are some pensioners living overseas traeted better than other who live in mainly Commonwealth countries? I have heard Rachel say it is because of reciprocal agreements but there are reciprocal agreements with Canada, new Zealand, Japan and previously with Australia, but pensioners living there are not uprated.

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 26-Jul-11 11:40:46

We've had a question of Facebook from Sheena Murkin, who doesn't have a computer and doesn't come on the Gransnet site:

"Would like to know why we,part of the United Kingdom,cannot use our bus passes nationwide?? We are UK yet cannot use them in Scotland if we live in England."

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 26-Jul-11 11:43:47

And another one from Sheena: "Also when are our pensions going to rise ,the increase in April hardly buys a coffee in a week!"

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 26-Jul-11 12:02:59

And just passing on another Facebook one from Patsy Kilminster.

"What happens to people like me that can no longer retire at 60 but have bad health,got to keep working but future looks grim!!!!!"

suki1 Tue 26-Jul-11 12:16:17

I am a working grandma who has suffered with ill health for many years.I now have to wait until I am sixty two and a half to retire.I really don't know how I shall cope with having to work these extra years.The thought of dragging myself to work every day feeling as I do fills me with dread and makes me feel even worse.What are people like me supposed to do? It's such a worry.

crumblygranny Tue 26-Jul-11 12:25:21

Hi Rachel

Bit off topic here, but I'd like to hear more from Labour on bread and butter issues. Hooray for keeping the press in check (although I wonder for how long), but what about the economy? I'm ok pension wise, but while all the prices in the shops keep rising, it does get tougher (and don't get me started on fuel costs)

effblinder Tue 26-Jul-11 12:27:06

This is a fairly obvious question - you obviously disagree with what the Conservatives are doing with our pensions, but what would Labour do with our pensions if they got into power?

How would all those complaining (those women born in the unlucky time period) be better off?

Hilary Tue 26-Jul-11 12:51:56

Dear Rachel

What can the opposition really do about the pension proposals at this stage? How much support is there within the coalition for sticking to the original, slower timetable? I was born on 3rd April 1954 and therefore belong to the cohort of women most affected by the proposals.

Hilary

Pattypie Tue 26-Jul-11 13:01:10

As a retired teacher I was personally quite disappointed that Ed Miliband didn't support last month's strike by teachers over pensions, particularly as he was supported by the unions in his Labour leadership bid. Could you possibly make clear the Labour party line on strikes and public sector pensions? I was not that clear what Ed Miliband and the Labour party really thought about this. Could you help me on this?

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 26-Jul-11 13:02:30

Hi everyone, we're delighted to welcome Rachel Reeves. She's here at GNHQ, she's got a brew and we're ready to go....

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:03:45

Really good to be here at GNHQ. About to start answering all your questions, but do please keep them coming in, I'm here til 2 o clock or so.

I'm really excited to be doing this.

getmehrt Tue 26-Jul-11 13:06:57

Hi Rachel, I am one of those people who will have to work two years longer than I planned although it's difficult to find jobs these days - there's an awful lot of ageism in the jobs market.

I don't believe this so-called reform is going to save billions of pounds exactly. There have been rumours the government will back down on this. Do you think they will?

greatgablegran Tue 26-Jul-11 13:09:37

Welcome to Gransnet, Rachel, good to have you...it's now nearly a year since Ed Miliband became leader of the Labour Party. When do you think we will have a clear sense of what the Labour Party stands for in the 21st century?

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:09:47

Hilary

Dear Rachel

What can the opposition really do about the pension proposals at this stage? How much support is there within the coalition for sticking to the original, slower timetable? I was born on 3rd April 1954 and therefore belong to the cohort of women most affected by the proposals.

Hilary

Hilary, you ask about the changes to the state pension age, which mean 500,000 women born in 1953 and 1954 will have to wait for more than a year longer before they get their state pension. And for people like you, born in March and April 1954, the delay is going to be 2 years. This is something I feel really strongly about.
It's right that, with people living longer, state pension age needs to increase, but that was already happening. What I think is totally wrong about this Government's proposals is that they disproportionately hit women aged 56 and 57 so close to their retirement date.

You ask what the opposition can do... well so far, I've put forward three different ways to reduce the impact on women like you. I met a lobby that came to Parliament back in May and have been working with women like Barbara Bates, who started an online petition that has got more than 12,000 signatures. The Government have said that they are looking at transitional arrangements for this group of women, although so far we haven't seen anything concrete. The Pensions Bill is set to become law in October, and I can promise you that right up until the Bill is passed I will be hammering on every door and asking questions in Parliament to make sure that these transitional arrangements are brought in, and doing my best to make sure that no one has to wait more than a year to get their state pension.

Hilary Tue 26-Jul-11 13:13:44

Thank you. Where can I find the online petition you mentioned?

Hilary

Carol Tue 26-Jul-11 13:15:09

Just type Barbara Bates pension petition in Google and she comes up straight away

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:15:39

em

I've read several articles which indicate that not giving the proposed £145 'new' pension to existing pensioners will involve a huge amount of bureaucratic cost - far more than if everyone receives it. It seems that phasing out the current means testing will be more expensive than simply switching to flat-rate pensions. So from this point of view as well as the perception of fairness how do you explain this differentiation in entitlement?

em, thanks for your question about Government proposals to introduce Flat Rate Pensions. As so often is the case, there is very little detail about how much this will be worth and who will be entitled to it.

I'm all for simplifying the system. I think we can all agree that pensions, both state and private, are much more complicated than they need to be. But I've got two worries about what the Government are proposing. First, and this is your point, what about existing pensioners? The Government say that this new pension will only be for new pensioners, when you know that many existing pensioners are getting less that £140 now.

The Government have already clobbered pensioners with an increase in VAT and a cut in the Winter Fuel Allowance and so many people are rightly annoyed that any new pension will not apply to them, and I share those concerns.

My second concern is that although £140 (if that's what the flat rate pension turns out to be) sounds very good in theory, somebody who has been on average earnings of around £25,000 who has paid into the system for 30 years currently gets £160, if you combine the basic state pension and S2P/SERPS. So the reality is, some people, including those on quite modest incomes, could stand to lose on these proposals.

You're right to ask questions about what the Government are doing, and I'll continue to do so in Parliament on your behalf.

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:16:37

Here's the petition from Barbara Bates: www.unionstogether.org.uk/page/signup/handsoff

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:19:02

grandmabet

Another thing which worries me is the uncertainty about private pensions in these uncertain times. Are there any safeguards in place if a company's pension plan collapses? DH has a pension and we keep on receiving letters from the company which, when reading between the lines, indicate that it could well go bust. Do we have any redress anywhere?

Hi grandmabet,

I know you've got a few questions, but let me take this one first.

It is awful for people when the firm they work for goes bust, because it means losing a job. But it is even worse if you then find out your pension has gone too. And that is what happened to people before the Pension Protection Fund was set up in 2004. The PPF provides protection for people whose companies go bust and has so far helped people in around 7,800 schemes, and has ensured that people receive what they have saved for. More than 6,000 people had their income protected under the PPF when MG Rover went bust. If you are worried about the pension you should go to their website www.pensionprotectionfund.org.uk to see whether the scheme is protected.

sneetch Tue 26-Jul-11 13:20:39

We hear a lot from politicians, including Ed Miliband, about young people. We care a lot about young people on gransnet (we're grans, after all!) but sometimes this talk becomes rather ageist and implies that old people are a drain on resources and the cause of economic decline.

We would like to be the cause of economic success! Can you reassure us that Labour will try to avoid this knee-jerk love-in with the young at the expense of the not so young?

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:24:41

Joan

Why are our British pensions, which we paid for under a contributory scheme, not index-linked when we live in Australia?

Hi Joan,

Not sure what the time is in Australia, but hope you're following today's discussion. On the ‘frozen’ overseas pensions, I know this is an issue that was looked at by the last Government, and reciprocal arrangements have been signed with many countries including all of those in the European Union, so for example if you retire to Spain, your pension gets uprated while a Spanish citizen who retires here gets their pension uprated too. Australia is one of the countries where there is not a reciprocal agreement, and that's why your pension won't get uprated, although if you were to come back to the UK, you would, of course receive your full pension. There are around 500,000 people whose pensions are not uprated - but index-linking their pensions would cost approximately £500m a year, which is a significant outlay – and the last government decided to focus on pensioner incomes in the UK.

I know that's not the answer you might have hoped for, but all governments have to decide priorities, and what is affordable.

eggmayo Tue 26-Jul-11 13:26:42

The government's proposals for auto-enrolment are a good idea, aren't they? I am very pleased there's no exemption for small firms, because it's very difficult these days to get any help with pension contributions - none of my children have any pensions whatsoever and they are all in their 30s and 40s.

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:28:30

helshea

Dear spokesperson, How much exactly will your private pension be when you retire?

Hi helshea,

I've worked in three jobs since I left university, and each one had a different pension scheme. I recognise that I am lucky because I know many people my age who haven't got any pension savings whatsoever. I only entered Parliament last May, but I think your question is probably about MPs' pensions.

You may have seen that MPs decided to relinquish control over the level of MPs’ pensions to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. I support this move, and think that any pension changes in the public sector should be reflected in MPs pensions. MPs currently contribute 11.9%, and any changes should be done in line with the Hutton recommendations for the whole public sector. The details are going to be worked out and that can only be a good thing. There will probably be an increase in MPs contributions and I expect that we will move to a career average, rather than a final, salary scheme too.

So I know I haven't said what my pension is going to be, but I'll probably be working for another 30+ years, so it's difficult to tell, but I hope the information about how the MPs' pension scheme works is useful.

pensionista Tue 26-Jul-11 13:28:48

There is so much inequality in the present pension creditstructure, i am heavily penalised because I receive a small second pension of £43 pw, that I paid into for 30 years.

If I was only in receipt of £25 per week as a second pension, I would then be in receipt of an extra £48 pw plus Community Charge relief. It is crazy that the £18 extra to which I contributed during my working days and also paid tax ,deprives me of around £4,000 +

That deficit puts me right on the edge of the poverty trap, where is the fairness?

rosiemus Tue 26-Jul-11 13:34:23

Sorry, Rachel, this is a bit off topic, but I wondered what your reaction was to the Dilnot report?

Do you generally think this is the right way to go?

And do you think that as the report seems to suggest, taxes to pay for social care should fall disproportionately (entirely??) on old people?

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:35:57

crumblygranny

Hi Rachel

Bit off topic here, but I'd like to hear more from Labour on bread and butter issues. Hooray for keeping the press in check (although I wonder for how long), but what about the economy? I'm ok pension wise, but while all the prices in the shops keep rising, it does get tougher (and don't get me started on fuel costs)

Hi crumblygranny,

Fingers crossed all the stuff about phone hacking will lead to change into what the media can do and change the relationship between politicians and the media.

On bread and butter issues, I think you're absolutely right. I know that in the constituency I represent (Leeds West), it is the prices charged in shops, the cost of filling up your car, and heating your home, along with the huge squeeze in incomes that families are experiencing are what really matters. In Leeds West, average incomes are just £18,000 a year. For many people it's a real struggle to make ends meet. Today, growth numbers for the economy in the second quarter of this year came out and they showed that the economy grew by a feeble 0.2%. That's not enough to get people back to work and ensure that incomes keep pace with price rises. That's why Labour are calling on the Government to come up with a Plan B, a proper plan for jobs and growth, which will help some of the 1 million young people who are out of work, help small businesses keep going and help families and pensioners who are struggling to make ends meet.

I think that plan means reducing the budget deficit but not at the speed and scale that this Government are trying to do. Other economies including France, Germany and the US are growing again, and unemployment is falling, but in the UK, we're stagnating.

So, I fully agree with you and I will do my best to ensure that Labour makes it the number one issue that I know it is for most people.

grandmabet Tue 26-Jul-11 13:37:33

I agree with Eggmayo about auto-enrolment into a pension scheme, but if it is into a government one we have to be confident that it is going to be fair when we come to draw the pension. If people won't voluntarily sacrifice some of today's pleasures for a better pension then it must be taken in the same way as PAYE. But what if, when the time comes, the government of the day say they can't afford to pay all the pensions and cut the amount - a scheme must be put in place that is rock solid for people to buy it.

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:39:55

eggmayo

The government's proposals for auto-enrolment are a good idea, aren't they? I am very pleased there's no exemption for small firms, because it's very difficult these days to get any help with pension contributions - none of my children have any pensions whatsoever and they are all in their 30s and 40s.

Dear eggmayo,

I am extremely proud of the auto-enrolment system (that was brought forward by the last government) which will roll out in 2012. It will mean that around 7m workers, mostly low paid and the majority women, will be automatically enrolled into saving for their retirement. Not only that, but employers will be required to offer workplace pensions to all their staff and to pay minimum of three per cent of an employee's salary into their pension. Yes, you're right, all businesses, including small businesses will have to comply.

This is a massive change in ideas about saving for the future, which we need. 20% of people don’t save for their retirement – and the percentage of people saving decreases as earnings get lower. Auto-enrolment will change this and prevent people having to rely on the state to support them in retirement, but most of all it should reduce the level of pensioner poverty that still persists.

pensionista Tue 26-Jul-11 13:43:01

Hi Joan,

The Labour Party is in need of a real Older Peoples Champion to correct Ed Ball's lack of knowledge of life prewar and OP's life struggle.

Surely, we have earned far greater appreciation of our contribution to society than being thrown on the scrap heap by many young politician's borne in the baby boom period.

How about a new Barbara Castle emerging from your benches ?

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:44:21

PierreMaurice

How much is it going to cost the Government to contribute to the new NEST system? If the government put that money into the state pension to which we are already paying towards our stste pensions, how much better would the state pension be with that money added?

Secondly, why are some pensioners living overseas traeted better than other who live in mainly Commonwealth countries? I have heard Rachel say it is because of reciprocal agreements but there are reciprocal agreements with Canada, new Zealand, Japan and previously with Australia, but pensioners living there are not uprated.

For the second part of your question, Pierre, see my answer to Joan.

As for the first part, just to reassure you that the main contributions are from the employer, and employee, not the Government. Under Automatic Enrolment, the employee will pay in 4%, the employer 3% and tax relief will provide another 1%. At the moment, tax relief on pensions costs the Government around £20bn a year but two thirds of the benefit goes to people paying top-rate tax.

I think it's fantastic that automatic enrolment will mean that those on modest and middle incomes will be encouraged to save with support from their employers, and also through tax relief. But in the scheme of Government spending on pension tax relief, this is not a huge cost.

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:47:45

NanaTee

I have worked while raising a family & paid a "reduced stamp" a married women's stamp since 1974. Friends who have paid a full stamp for a short while & then given up work have claimed credits for their years of childcare & now earn a full Pension in their own right. This does not seem fair. I have offered to pay a top up but this is not allowed. I understand that there are about 300,000 Women who may be similarly affected. How will this be dealt with under the new Pension arrangements?

Hi Nanatee,

I firmly believe that the pension system needs to do more to support women like you, who have done such fantastic work in bringing up a family, and I’m really sorry to hear about your situation.

There is a lot of complexity in the system and that is one reason I support in principle the moves to a flat rate pension which I have already discussed.

There was an unfairness in the system with the number of years needed to contribute to NI – set at 44 years for men and 39 years for women – and this was changed so that it was 30 years for everyone - which means that many women (and men) who took time out to bring up a family were not unfairly penalised when it came to pensions.

I recognise that doesn't help everybody, but on top of that, the minimum income guarantee ensures that no pensioner should be living on less than £135 a week, up from less than £70 when Labour came to power in 1997.

pensionista Tue 26-Jul-11 13:47:58

Rachel,

Doe's the Labour Party have any proposals to reduce pension poverty in a realistic time period ?

Harry123 Tue 26-Jul-11 13:50:41

I have been a Labour supporter all my life, but I get the impression your opposite number in government is actually quite reasonable. Does this make your job difficult, or easier?!

(you may not agree, of course!)

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:54:08

Barrow

I have to say I agree with beolivia to some extent. Those of us who have been responsible and tried to make provision for our old age are being penalised whilst those who spent every penny they had as and when they got it can sit back whilst the state looks after them. I know there will be many disagreeing with these thoughts, but as I have mentioned before my biggest expenditure is Council Tax which I have no control over and with which I can get no help because I have savings over a certain amount, yet those who have not saved and who receive pension credits and other benefits can have a higher weekly income that I do and still get help with Council Tax. Yes I know some people didn't earn enough to save for their retirement and I have no problem with them receiving all the help they can get but we all know people who are happy to sit back and let the state pay for everything. I am sorely tempted to book a cruise and spend all my money so the state can then look after me!!!!

Sorry that was a bit of a rant but it is something I feel strongly about.

Dear Barrow,

I am president of a charity in my constituency, called Bramley Elderly Action. And while I know that many people think that the pension credit system is unfair, I also know that many of the pensioners in my area are an awful lot better off because of the targeting of support for some of the poorest pensioners, particularly single women. Overall, more than a million pensioners were lifted out of poverty by the last government and pensioner poverty now stands at its lowest level for 30 years.

I know it is difficult in your situation, and there are always difficult decisions about thresholds. The savings threshold was raised by the last government to try to support pensioner households with modest savings and automatic enrolment means that we must do more to encourage savings, including clawing less back through means testing. But there's always going to be a balance between paying a single pension to everyone regardless of their private means and targeting support on those people where it can make the most difference.

One thing we need to keep an eye on is what happens to council tax benefit. The Government’s localism proposals seem to suggest that council tax benefits will depend on where you live, which I don’t think is right. As I said we need to keep an eye on it, and ensure that pensioners who need support with their council tax get it, wherever they live.

putaspellonyou Tue 26-Jul-11 13:54:32

Did you always want to be a politician? What motivated you to go into politics? And is there anything you don't like about the job?

pensionista Tue 26-Jul-11 13:56:30

Hi Ladies, don't forget there are granddad's on the site, a bit of gender issues are creeping in so lets the role males also play in society.

This old codger did his part in ww2 and today's politician ignore our contribution in keeping Britain British.

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 13:57:36

Harry123

I have been a Labour supporter all my life, but I get the impression your opposite number in government is actually quite reasonable. Does this make your job difficult, or easier?!

(you may not agree, of course!)

Hi Harry123,

I think in some areas, Steve Webb does 'get it'. In opposition, he did a huge amount to raise the issue of pensioner poverty and women's pensions. The problem is he is part of a government that wants to cut public spending at an unprecedented rate which means everybody including pensioners is having to take a big hit. So the unfair increases in the state pension age, the cut in Winter Fuel allowance and the hike in VAT (not to mention the shift from RPI to CPI in uprating pensions) are hitting pensioners hard.

So his heart might be in the right place, but like all ministers, he is having to implement George Osborne's cuts, and that's why pensioners are missing out.

pensionista Tue 26-Jul-11 14:03:04

Steve Webb is doing a far better job than Gordon did with his 30p pension increase

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 14:05:39

putaspellonyou

Did you always want to be a politician? What motivated you to go into politics? And is there anything you don't like about the job?

Little bit of a lighter note smile

When I was growing up, Thatcher and Major were in power, my school library was turned into a classroom because there wasn't enough space. There weren't enough textbooks to go round, and my sixth form was two prefab huts in the playground. So I joined the Labour Party when I was 17 because I wanted a fairer country. I didn't know then I was going to be a politician, but I did know I was passionate about everyone having a decent education and there being enough jobs for people too.

I honestly love my job. I love the constituency I represent and the opportunity to help people there with problems with housing, antisocial behaviour or getting the pensions they're entitled to. And I love my job as shadow pensions minister, getting stuck into the debate in Parliament and of course, answering fantastic questions like those that have been put to me this afternoon. smile I'm getting asked by the Gransnet staff to say what I don't like... if I had to say something, it's the hours that Parliament sit. On Mondays and Tuesdays, we go until 10 o clock at night, sometimes later, I don't think that's the best way to make the laws, or to get the best people into politics. It's something that I hope will change.

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 14:12:47

pensionista

Rachel,

Doe's the Labour Party have any proposals to reduce pension poverty in a realistic time period ?

Pensionista, you've got loads of excellent questions! Let me tackle this one.

As I said before, in my constituency, where poverty amongst pensioners and families is among the highest in the country, is something I care hugely about. When Labour came to power is 1997, a third of pensioners were living in poverty. But since then, over a million pensioners have been lifted out of poverty. In part, due to the pension credit, but also because of Winter Fuel allowance and other support.

I recently launched a campaign in Leeds with Age UK getting pensioners to claim the benefits they're entitled to, and as a constituency MP, that's something I'm very mindful of, because if everyone did claim what they were entitled to, pensioner poverty would fall further and faster. I think the Government have got it wrong on changes to the Winter Fuel allowance because with the sharp increases in energy prices and the coldness of the last couple of winters, the truth is, with less money to pay the fuel bills, more pensioners are going to be cutting back on the basics (food and fuel). Pensioner poverty, frankly, is unacceptable in a country such as the UK.

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 14:16:37

greatgablegran

Welcome to Gransnet, Rachel, good to have you...it's now nearly a year since Ed Miliband became leader of the Labour Party. When do you think we will have a clear sense of what the Labour Party stands for in the 21st century?

Hi greatgablegran,

It's been really enjoyable being here! We're in the process now of pulling together all the recommendations that have come in as part of Labour's policy review. Some of the questions that have come in today have said that Labour isn't relevant, and the truth is, after the election defeat last year, it is right that Ed Miliband looks again at all our policies and takes a chance to go out, meet with people and really understand their fears, concerns and aspirations. If we do that, I think Labour can be relevant again.

At Labour's party conference in September, you'll be hearing more from us on the policy review, but from my small part on it, I think it's been a fantastic way of reaching out and doing some fresh thinking - and today in a way has been part of that exercise.

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 26-Jul-11 14:17:45

Thank you so much, Rachel, for all those great answers and for staying so long and addressing all our concerns. Great to have you!

RachelReeves Tue 26-Jul-11 14:19:31

Time's up, and I seem to have run over slightly, but really pleased to be able to answer so many questions and to hear your views on State pension age, pensioner poverty, means testing, flat rate pension and pensions abroad.

If you invite me back, I'd be happy to take more questions smile

In the meantime, have a lovely summer, and thanks again.

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 26-Jul-11 14:27:19

And Rachel just revealed as she left that she's getting married in 10 days - so we wish her lots of happiness. And no rain on the day. smile

em Tue 26-Jul-11 22:40:49

A really interesting and informative session. We may or may not have had exactly the answers we were looking for but I feel it was an excellent way to ask direct questions. Good luck to Rachel for the wedding!

grannyactivist Tue 26-Jul-11 23:55:54

Well done Geraldine for organising this. It's been helpful to read the Q's & A's.

hollie57 Wed 27-Jul-11 12:19:01

hello rachel,
is there any news about helping people who have to wait the full extra 2 years before getting there pensions, i am one of these people I was expecting my pension at 60 then it changed to 63/ 11months but now I have to wait until 66 I had to retire through ill health and cannot claim any benefits what do the goverment expect me to live on for the next 9 years?I am very very frustrated by the goverment reaction to our age. group women are never treated equally to men they are only having to wait one year for their pension but I am having to wait 6 years is this equal? don't think so!!!!Does any one in goverment care not on the pensions they will receive they are on a different planet!!

JosieGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 27-Jul-11 12:39:19

Hi hollie57,

I'm afraid Rachel has already been and gone, but we'll pass on your concerns to her, and do have a look at her previous answers to others' questions.

Glad to hear others found it informative and useful.