2. Letter to the Chairman from Dawn Primarolo,
Paymaster General, on |
National Insurance Contributions Bill
Thank you for your letter of 22 May concerning the
compatibility of the National Insurance Contributions Bill with
human rights and Social Security Directive 79/7/EEC.
As you say, the imposition of the additional rate
differentiates between men and women on the ground of sex. In
line with the rules applicable to primary Class 1 contributions
and Class 4 contributions the liability to pay the additional
rate will cease at 65 for men and 60 for women, their respective
State pension ages.
Taking your questions in order
1. It is agreed that the provisions of the Bill
may engage rights under the ECHR Article 14, taken together with
Article 1 of protocol 1.
2. It is agreed that the justification for the
differential treatment of men and women must take account of the
fact that the product of the additional rate will be allocated
to the National Health Service. As you will be aware, the link
between National Insurance Contributions and state retirement
ages, and the arrangement for a proportion of the revenue from
contributions to go towards the cost of the National Health Service,
have been in existence since the scheme was established in the
1940s. It is also necessary to take account of the Government's
policy on the equalisation of pension ages and the complex knock
on effects of that policy.
3. The levying of public revenue is an area of
government in which the courts give the greatest deference to
the legislaturesee The National & Provincial Building
Society and others v. United Kingdom (judgement of 23 October
1997 at paragraph 80). The Government concluded that the best
way to raise the additional money which is necessary to fund the
National Health Service is through additional National Insurance
Contributions, and to continue the link between National Insurance
Contributions and the National Health Service, mentioned above.
Having chosen to raise the additional money through
the National Insurance Contributions system, the Government was
of course aware that this would mean that the additional contributions
would cease to be payable by men and women at their respective
State pension ages. The Government considers that this is consistent
with the decision which Parliament made back in 1995 when it decided
to equalise State pension ages, and consequently the contribution
periods for men and women, over a long period of time. The differentiation
in relation to the additional contributions will therefore work
itself out of the system over the next few years as the contributions
periods for men and women gradually equalise.
The Government considers that the approach which
has been taken is objectively and rationally justifiable and is
compatible with the Convention rights.
4. The Government takes the view that the National
Health Service is not a statutory scheme to which the Directive
applies. The Directive does not extend to cover contributions
funding the provision of universal health services.
In the light of my response to your fourth question,
your fifth and sixth questions do not arise.
Finally, you ask whether we have received any other
representations on human rights issues in connection with this
Bill. Apart from a letter from PARITY on the issues you have raised,
which was passed to me by Matthew Taylor, we have received no
11 June 2002