Sunday, June 16, 2013

A superb, intelligent debate about pensions

Labour's shadow chancellor Ed Balls recently tried to prove Labour would be tough in trying to tackle the government deficit (a huge problem, of course, inherited by the present coalition from the previous Labour goverment in which Ed Ball played a key economic role) by taking on pensioners.

Any pensioner or person heading for retirement age who is thinking of voting Labour has been warned - Labour is looking to save money by spending less on pensioners.

Particularly those who have done the right thing by saving for their old age so they will not be a burden on their families, or dependent on the doubtful generosity of the state in their retirement.

Yesterday morning while travelling I heard a superb debate about Politics of Pensions on Radio 4's "Week in Westminster" programme. The Conservative and Labour speakers were two of the most intelligent people in the House of Commons: former Conservative cabinet minister Peter Lilley MP and one of the very few Labour MPs who I highly respect, Frank Field.

The debate between Peter and Frank, chaired by the Sun's Tom Newton Dunn, was one of the most perceptive and interesting political discussions I have ever heard, packing an amazing amount of common sense and well-informed thought into seven minutes.

As was pointed out by Frank Field in the discussion, the days when anyone in their right mind thought that Britain could hope to provide scandinavian levels of welfare on US levels of taxation are well and truly over. We won't be able to afford any such thing in the lifetime of anyone now alive, either.

He added that for fifty of the past 64 years, governments of all parties promised and tried to provide a more generous level of state activity than they were prepared to raise the tax to pay for.

I wish every voter in the country could have heard that discussion, if you do wish to listen to it, which I would strongly recommend, it is available on BBC iPlayer here - the "Politics of Pensions" item starts about 14 minutes into the programme and finishes about 21 minutes in.

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