Labour Party pension defeat
As the political party conference season drags on towards its close once again I thought you’d be interested in some little-reported news from last week’s Labour Party conference in Manchester. Not that I was there, but I have my sources.
In the old days all the major policy stuff was debated on the floor of the conferences, but that’s a thing of the past now; policy is formed differently today. Nevertheless, there are still some debates held and this year the pensions issues got an airing at conference. Interestingly, the party leadership suffered a defeat as the conference delegates voted in support of motions criticising key planks of the Government’s current pensions policy.
What actually happened last Tuesday in Manchester was that the conference ended up passing a motion that attacked plans to increase the state pensions age to 68 and to delay the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings until 2012. The motion was tabled by the GMB union.
The view of the GMB was that it would not be fair to raise the pension age to 68 when people might generally only expect to live until age 68 in, say, Glasgow, whereas people in Kensington, for instance, might expect to live until they are 74 on average. The motion from the trades union made the point that in their opinion there should be no raising of the state pension age until health inequalities in the UK are eradicated and improved longevity is equally shared by all.
On the subject of restoring the earnings link the view of the conference was that delaying restoration until 2012 and beyond will leave an unacceptable number of today’s pensioners reliant on inefficient means-tested benefits. Delegates also demanded that ministers speed up the restoration of the link and raise the state pension to at least £114 a week.
Now I’m not too sure how much notice ministers will take about this vote, but I would have thought that it would be awkward at least to completely ignore such a strong call from the grass roots of the party. The idea of increasing the basic pension to £114 a week, though, seems quite unlikely to me. That has never really been on the cards and the reinstatement of the earnings link isn’t aimed at putting right the damage caused to the state pension so far; all it’s really all about is stopping it getting any worse. But not until it’s got six years worse first, which is why further delay looks just so dodgy to those of us who think about these things…
3 October 2006
Source - BBC News website 26 September 2006.
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