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Have you got questions for the Labour spokesperson on pensions?

(75 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.

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.


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'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


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, 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?


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


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:

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


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 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


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


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?