Work for your pension? That’s a bit rich, my Lord

Our diarist notes the curious perspective of a senior Whitehall mandarin, has an update on the outspoken Nadine Dorries, and offers a reminder of Conrad Black's taste

Related Topics

Michael Bichard, who was once one of Whitehall’s most senior civil servants, thinks that pensioners should be on workfare. He did not put it quite like that, but that is what he meant. Workfare is a system pioneered in the USA, under which people on welfare are obliged to make a contribution to society to qualify for their benefits. “Are we using all of the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?” Lord Bichard asked fellow members of a committee investigating the impact on public services of an ageing population.

Saga’s boss, Dr Ros Altmann thinks that this proposal is “social engineering of a dangerous kind”. It implies, she suggested, that when you reach the recognised retirement age, “civil servants should assess you and decide whether you are fit to be assigned to do work that they decide you should do”. She added: “The idea undermines the concept of ‘volunteering’ altogether, because if you have to do it in order to get your full pension, it is just another kind of paid work.”

Four years ago, the pension arrangements of people like Lord Bichard were analysed. It was found that their average pension pot was worth just under £850,000. It’s a bit rich for him to be thinking that someone on a state pension of around £5,300 a year is a “negative burden”.

Revenge doesn’t hang well on Ms Dorries

“Nobody wrongs me and doesn’t pay for it,” the Tory MP Nadine Dorries told, as she fired another barrage of accusations against George Osborne and David Cameron. There was nothing quite as quotable as when she called them “two arrogant posh boys” last April, but in this latest interview she managed to call Osborne a “pernicious influence”, and to forecast that Cameron will face a leadership challenge before 2015. Ms Dorries is angry that the two leading members of the Cabinet thwarted her attempt to get the time limit for abortions reduced, but she devalues herself by letting on that her motive is revenge.

End of paper trail for Lord Black’s ambitions

Lord Black of Crossharbour, back in London after doing time in a Florida jail, sounded cross when Jeremy Paxman suggested he had taken to crime because he aspired to a lifestyle that he could not afford. Well his lordship certainly had dreams of opulence, as he revealed when he wrote to author Dominic Shelmerdine in 2001, saying he had had an ambition to “live in a house as grand and filled with valuable objects as William Randolph Hearst’s” Castle, in California, that had 56 bedrooms.

The letter is in a book called My Original Ambition: Letters from Persons of Consequence, which exists in hardback only. Shelmerdine tells me this hopes for a paperback reprint have hit a serious snag because one of the other contributors was Jimmy Savile.

Report on late trains arrives... er... late

Three years ago, the Department of Transport hired an analyst named John Bates to report on why trains are late. He handed in his report, Stocktake of Travel Time Variability, on 2 November 2010. It cost £11,384.60 and according to an answer given to a question in the House of Lords yesterday “no specific action follows its publication, but it will inform any future consideration of reliability analysis.”

It did not influence the ill-fated decision to take the West Coast franchise away from Virgin – because, you see, it did not get published in time. It was published “as soon as it was feasible” – on 24 September 2012, to be precise, nearly two years after it was written. I expect it was the wrong sort of printer’s ink.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - Managed Services Provider

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot