Simon Read: Pensions minister in yet another unpleasant u-turn


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The Independent Online

Do you remember the  U-turn by pensions minister Steve Webb on Brits living overseas with frozen state pensions? Ten years ago he said: “We ask people to make contributions all their life to accrue an entitlement. Why should that accrued entitlement vary according to where they choose to live?”

So when he came to power, campaigners hoped he would scrap the anomaly that leaves 500,000 overseas pensioners with no state pension increases, while the other half get them each year.

Campaigners were disappointed. In fact when I challenged him on the issue, he said: “Look, the fiscal position was different in 2004 than in 2014.”

The U-turn disappointed all of us. But it transpires that he’s well known for going back on his beliefs.

In 2009 he expressed support for the tens of thousands of people who lost their pensions following the winding up of their occupational final salary schemes.

The Government had offered them a Financial Assistance Scheme that was supposed to replace 90 per cent of the pensions they were promised, but in reality the figure is far less.

Mr Webb said at the time: “These people are entirely innocent. There is no suggestion that they did anything other than what they should have done. They worked hard and contributed to their pensions, and now we are condemning them, through these regulations, to year after year of declining real living standards.”

Strong words. But his actions since coming to power have betrayed them. Treating retired folk consistently shabbily is unacceptable, even for a minister. I plan to return to this subject in more detail.

Twitter: @simonnread

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