» Thursday, November 17, 2005


Asked if the Prime Minister had chosen whether there was going to be an increase in taxes, or if people would have to work longer, or if people would have to save more as the answer to the pensions crisis, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) told the journalist that it was better to wait until the 30th November when the Turner Report was published, and then we would give our response. As the PMOS had said this morning, the important thing was that no-one should rule anything in or anything out at this stage.

Asked if the Government was committed to doing something before the next election, the PMOS said that the position remained the same as was stated during the election, but people should wait until the 30th November.

Put to the PMOS that during the election, it was stated that pensions should be a matter for public discussion, and was it not in the manifesto, the PMOS said again it was better to wait until the 30th November, and then the Government would respond in the way that it was going to respond.

Asked if the position had therefore not changed, the PMOS said that Ministers had stated the position during the election campaign, so we should wait until the 30th November, see the report, and then we would respond.

Put that as the PMOS had said that nothing could be ruled out of the Turner report, and that it might include people working until they were 67, how did the Prime Minister therefore justify the deal done with the trade unions that public sector workers should continue to retire at 60, or did the Prime Minister regret it, the PMOS said that it was purely coincidental that the journalist missed out the PMOS’s words when he had also said that nothing should be ruled in! In terms of the public sector pension deal, as the PMOS had said over the past two days, that £13 billion would be saved between now and 2050. When the new pension arrangements come into place next year, and there was a ten per cent turnover of civil servants per year, that meant in seven years time, fifty per cent of the staff would be working under the new pensions arrangements. Within a decade, because of the turnover, the vast majority of civil servants would be working under the new scheme. As people could see, in terms of the turnover of staff, the proportion of staff who would not be affected by the new arrangements would fall substantially each year.

Asked what new arrangements were, as the retirement age for public sector workers was staying at 60, the PMOS said that the new arrangements were that for new entrants to the civil service, the age would be 65.

Asked in general terms, what was the Prime Minister’s assessment of the national pensions provision, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had set up a major review under Lord Turner which would report on the 30th November, and it was better to wait until then, rather than give a knee-jerk response!

Asked why did the Prime Minister set up the Turner Report, the PMOS replied that there was a fundamental issue which had to be addressed, given the changing demographics. The demographics were not restricted to this country by any means, as the UK was better placed than others. The PMOS told journalists that when the Welfare State was set up, there were ten people in work for every one in retirement. Now, there were four people in work for every one in retirement, and in fifty years time, that would change to two people in work to every one in retirement.

Asked if the Prime Minister had investigated how other countries had coped with their pensions issues, the PMOS said that again, part of setting up Lord Turner’s Review was to look at the international comparisons.

Briefing took place at 7:00 | Search for related news

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