Public Service Pensions Bill

Memorandum submitted by Dr Robert Reynolds (PSP 11)

My recommendations are as follows:

1. Design of any new pension system should have in mind congruence with a future democratic settlement on income distribution, in public and private service, and in education, sickness and frailty, taking this to be implicitly in line with the democratic objectives of all UK governments.

2. Apart from the obvious positive reasons for democratic equality - representation of each other by each other, and equal individual economic command in the market-place for goods, services and politics - experience has taught the folly both of unfair and arbitrary discrimination as a constant irritant, and of frankly fraudulent guarantees and small-print betrayals at maturity and times of need.

3. It should be specially noted that 'career average' schemes, subject no less than 'final salary' schemes to long-run national economic uncertainties, may give rise to 'unaffordable commitments', with adverse consequence for public and / or private finances. More sensible - and honest - would be straightforward universal relation of pensions to national prosperity and national investment strategy.

4. It might be thought too difficult, or dangerous, to make incomes - benefits, wages and pensions - dependent on national accounting and democratic allocation to private spending. Having in mind desirable stability for markets, for consumer-retailer-manufacturer-investors, and for renter-providers of housing, the 'hand on the income tiller' would of course have to be 'reasonably steady', no doubt with algorithmic assistance and formal oversights.

5. However, such a hand, on such a tiller, would afford invaluable facility in reactive negotiation of not uncommon and far more problematic 'natural' turbulences, whether domestic, regional or global. Even radical 'changes of course' can be accepted, and 'worked with', when shown to be truly necessary and tolerably fair.

6. Of immeasurable assistance in a true equal democracy, would be general trust in the situations of the few to whom decisions can fall, equally subject to economic consequences. In our current circumstances, less happy if not fraught, gradualism 'raised to a principle' will afford some protection for those - perhaps most of us - with personal and extended-family situations far from 'the average'. However, achievement of perceived fairness between groups, in 'gradual movement' towards 'more fairness' within different groups, is inescapably problematic. Comprehension is needed of 'all classes', not least that of 'decision-makers', perhaps 'become as the gods', far above mortal concerns.

7. In the terms of any new pension scheme, it would be of some comfort to mortals to include a 'scheme of democratisation', whereby - should again 'the gods fail us', and necessity arise for another reorganisation of contributions and commitment - the fall-back scheme will be securely egalitarian.

8. Even as mainly a locum worker in lowly NHS medical employment, I counted myself very fortunate being able to 'subsidise' the careers of children with as yet non-paying ambitions in science, technology and art. As now an NHS pensioner, I count myself fortunate having been able to allocate some pension to a child who many never work. Yet I would gladly have forgone my privileges, and would gladly now give-up those remaining, in exchange for the knowledge of 'belonging' equally for all.

9. The benefits of equality would be far beyond 'bureaucratic savings', considerable though these would be. Far greater would be the saving of 'opportunity costs', the release of all energies 'in conscience', all of us afforded security to speak, free to compete to be the best we can be. Not the least benefit to all would be freedom to choose our time of departing from this world, those who might assist no longer being troubled by questions as to motive.

10. For all still with work-capacities, contributing as able, competing for better jobs and business finance, good sense would I believe support the deserving; and would see any penalties only for the lazy and criminal. People with good ideas would I hope find backing; or they might choose to take 'a measured hit' to be able to back their self-belief. Vitally, all would be able to 'try something else', to have a life alongside all others.

11. I ask the committee to imagine for all, a life of belonging - in childhood, work, sickness and age - free to follow conscience, free from the tyranny of Fear that otherwise corrupts from shareable purpose.

November 2012

Prepared 8th November 2012