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BeeHive  >  Press Articles  >  The Bee Side - Playing pensions musical chairs

The Bee Side - Playing pensions musical chairs

In May 1997 Harriet Harman became the first secretary of state for social security in the then new New Labour government. Frank Field was made minister of state for welfare reform and John Denham was under-secretary. Just over a year later, Alastair Darling replaced Harriet Harman as secretary of state for social security and John Denham got the new title of minister of pensions; while Frank Field's role sort of disappeared. Six months later, in January 1999, Stephen Timms replaced John Denham as minister for pensions, a role he held until July of that year, when he was replaced by Jeff Rooker and the job was rebranded as pensions minister.

So, in the first two years and one month of thinking the unthinkable, Harriet Harman, Frank Field, John Denham, Alastair Darling, Stephen Timms and Jeff Rooker had all held pension jobs.

Thankfully the next two years weren't so eventful. Jeff Rooker kept hold of the, once again renamed, job of pensions minister right up to May 2001, and all the while Alastair Darling held on in there as secretary of state, but the job title was changed to secretary of state for work and pensions. In May 2001, though, Jeff Rooker was replaced as pensions minister by Ian McCartney and in May 2002, Alastair Darling was replaced as secretary of state for work and pensions by Andrew Smith (keep awake at the back).

A year later, in June 2003, Ian McCartney moved on and was succeeded as pensions minister by Malcolm Wicks. So in that summer the new pensions line- up of Andrew Smith and Malcolm Wicks picked up the pension banner and kept hold of it until Andrew Smith was replaced as secretary of state for work and pensions by Alan Johnson in September 2004.

The Andrew Johnson and Malcolm Wicks partnership hardly had time to get their act together, though, before they were both replaced in their jobs just a few months later in May 2005. Alan Johnson was replaced as secretary of state for work and pensions by David Blunkett, and Malcolm Wicks handed the job of pensions minister back to Stephen Timms. Not long after that, in November 2005, David Blunkett moved on and John Hutton replaced him, but Stephen Timms stayed on even though his job title didn't; the pensions minister monicker was dropped in favour of the new title of minister for pensions reform. Stephen Timms therefore has the distinction of having held down the roles of minister for pensions, pensions minister and minister for pensions reform; something nobody else has done and worth bearing in mind for future quiz nights.

A few months later, in May 2006, Stephen Timms moved on again and was replaced as minister for pensions reform by James Purnell. A year later, in June 2007, both John Hutton and James Purnell have been replaced in their jobs. The new Batman and Robin of pensions are Peter Hain, who is the latest secretary of state for work and pensions, and Mike O'Brien who is now minister for pensions reform.

To be continued...

Steve Bee

First published in Pensions Management, August 2007