State Pension Credit Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Webb: Can the Minister clarify how the deferral interacts with the pension credit? If I were 65, and I decided to wait a year before drawing my pension, and to draw it at an enhanced rate a year later, how would my income be assessed for the purposes of pension credit when I am 65? Am I deemed to be drawing a full basic pension, or is there some incentive to defer?

Maria Eagle: That is a good point. As I understand it, pension credit becomes payable at 65, and one is deemed to have the basic state pension in payment, regardless of whether it has been deferred. Therefore,

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by deferring retirement, one does not defer one's entitlement to pension credit. I think that I have correctly interpreted the hon. Gentleman's point; no doubt he will leap up, if he is thinking of another matter.

I wish to make some points about the amendments, as that is what we are discussing. The hon. Member for Daventry is kindly including a provision in the Bill to enable the Secretary of State to change that age, if it were to go up—and we are assuming that it would go up, rather than down. However, normally we would require primary legislation to change the age at which people receive their basic state pension. In the normal way of things, we would expect to make all relevant consequential amendments to other legislation in that primary legislation. It was kind of the hon. Gentleman to try to give the Secretary of State an additional power, although that is not necessary at this time. He may consider, on reflection, that such a measure would be redundant if it were added to the Bill. Those of us who want the Bill to be easily understood, something to which we all will aspire when we reach clause 3, would not wish to include in it unnecessary measures so, although helpful, the hon. Gentleman's assistance is unnecessary in this instance.

The hon. Gentleman has forgotten some consequential matters that he would have spotted if he were really on the ball. If he had shown the amendments to his daughter, I am sure that she would have spotted them immediately. References to the age of 65 elsewhere in the Bill would also need to be allowed to slide upwards. Although I understand his argument, the amendments would be redundant and would also cause awkwardness if they were ever to be enacted. Given that the hon. Gentleman said that the measures were probing amendments, I hope that he will withdraw them.

Mr. Boswell: I am grateful to the Under-Secretary. The probing amendments have generated a little debate. Frankly, I could have enjoyed more debate on deep-seated issues to do with older people. It is much better if a debate on the pension age is carried out coolly and not by megaphone diplomacy or preconception. Above all, if we eventually decided to change the pension age—whichever party was in power—I hope that it will not be a penal exercise because there will be people who for good reasons feel it appropriate to retire early. They may feel that their contribution to working life is over. We may want to make such a change more flexible and study other ways in which to make it. We could debate at length how to set up a system.

The hon. Lady reasonably referred to the likelihood of a change. If we considered that—I believe that her party would be the same—I am sure that we would be looking upwards not downwards. That is consistent with what happened in 1995 and equalisation. Furthermore, we must bear in mind the passage of events and the welcome increase in longevity, and the fact that people live to greater ages and enjoy long periods of retirement of 20 or 30 years. We have no problem with that, let alone any implied suggestion that we would want to reopen the distinction between men and women. No one wants to do that. I am

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relieved that no one has set up an Aunt Sally in that area.

It has been useful to touch on the issue. I am sure that it will return in a different context and, as the Under-Secretary said, in different Bills. For the time being, given that we have had a preliminary canter around such an important issue to which none of us has an easy solution, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.45 pm

Mr. Webb: On a point of order, Mr. Griffiths. I have a slight sixth sense that we may be drawing our morning sitting to a close. We may reach clause 3 this afternoon and, as that was the subject of the background note to which the Minister referred this morning when he said that he had intended, but had omitted to circulate it to members of the Committee, will you do all in your power to ensure that we have

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sight of that enclosure in advance of this afternoon's sitting?

The Chairman: I think that the Minister has heard what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Ian McCartney: I apologise again to the Committee, but may I make it clear that the omission should not affect the debate? The enclosure was simply a personal attempt to engage with members of the Committee. What started off as a simple exercise has become more complicated than the clause itself. I apologise again.

The Chairman: It is clear that the enclosure is additional to the notes that have been circulated already and that it should not affect what happens this afternoon. However, I am sure that the Minister will do his best to ensure that it is available.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Angela Smith.]

Adjourned accordingly at ten minutes to One o'clock till this day at half-past Four o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Griffiths, Mr. Win (Chairman)
Boswell, Mr.
Brazier, Mr.
Brennan, Kevin
Cairns, David
Clappison, Mr.
Cruddas, Jon
Eagle, Maria
Ewing, Annabelle
McCartney, Mr. Ian
Mercer, Patrick
Osborne, Sandra
Purnell, James
Selous, Andrew
Smith, Angela
Turner, Mr. Neil
Tynan, Mr.
Webb, Mr.

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