HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
When I was a boy we were taught to “respect our elders and betters” and, in many cultures, the ‘elders’ rule the roost.
Certainly we should be proud of the enormous contribution today’s pensioners have made to our country.
Many left school and entered work at the age of 14 – the school leaving age was raised to 15 by Rab Butler’s 1944 Education Act – and stayed in employment for over half a century.
Those who worked hard and raised families in the days before the easy credit of the Blair years understood that you could only spend what you earned, and that saving for retirement was their own responsibility.
Yet Gordon Brown’s financial meltdown was especially difficult for savers, with low interest rates hitting pensioners hardest, and many seeing their incomes fall as a consequence.
That’s why I was very pleased to see that the 65-plus pensioner bonds scheme was recently extended by another three months.
The National Savings and Investments Bond, the biggest ever retail bond offer, gives pensioners the chance to benefit from the best interest rates on the market.
So far the scheme has been enormously popular, with £7.5 billion sold to over 610,000 savers – giving pensioners a greater form of financial security.
This Conservative-led government has improved pensions provision hugely. Those approaching retirement now have freedom over how they access their pension savings, and the punitive 55 per cent tax rate previously charged for taking out more than their tax free lump sum is being removed.
The new single tier pension will be at a flat rate, set above the means test and based on 35 years of National Insurance contributions – particularly good news for women, low-earners and the self-employed.
The introduction of the ‘triple lock’ guarantees a fair value of the basic state pension, meaning that from now on it always increases in line with whichever is the highest of earnings, prices, or 2.5 per cent.
Since 2011/12 that has meant the biggest ever cash rise in the pension, since the last election the annual basic state pension has risen by £800.
Despite the pressure on public finances, the Government has maintained all the special benefits for pensioners. David Cameron promised to protect free prescriptions, bus passes, TV licences, and the Winter Fuel Allowance for the elderly, and he has kept his word.
We’ve also reformed social care, so that, from April 2016, the Government will pay for people’s care once the cost hits £72,000 – meaning no one will need to sell their home to pay for their care.
Giving something back to those who have put into the system their whole lives is surely the least we should do. Hard-working savers deserve a reward for their thrift; Britain must always stand by its elders.