Yvonne Fovargue MP: All deserve a decent state pension

I believe that everyone deserves financial security in retirement and that the cornerstone of that is a decent state pension, properly indexed to ensure it keeps its value for future generations of pensioners.

Friday, 24th September 2021, 4:55 am
Yvonne Fovargue, MP for Makerfield

The Conservatives made a manifesto commitment in 2019 to maintain the triple lock. However, this month, they announced it would be unfair to apply the triple lock for the financial year 2022/23 because average earnings are estimated to have risen by eight per cent this year.

The Government argued that this rise is a “statistical anomaly” created by the large number of people who saw their earnings fall during lockdown. So, for 2022/23 only, Ministers will propose that the state pension increases by 2.5 per cent or in line with inflation, whichever is higher.

This is the latest in a series of broken manifesto commitments, coming after the increase in National Insurance (NI) to fund health and social care.

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I think it is essential the Government is held to account for breaking its promises. I believe we all have an interest in ensuring that the state pension allows older people to live in dignity.

On the NI increase, the Prime Minister announced a new tax to pay for the Government’s plans for health and social care: The Health and Social Care Levy.

The Levy is to be based on National Insurance contributions (NICs), which are paid by workers, employers and the self-employed.

It will be introduced in two stages: first, in 2022-23, NICs will be increased by 1.25 per cent; then, in 2023-24, a separate Levy set at 1.25 per cent will be introduced, replacing the increase in NICs rates.

Unlike NICs, the Levy will also apply to people in employment over the state pension age. The Health and Social Care Levy Bill introduces these changes.

I voted against the Bill. I agree there is a need to increase funding for health and social care – we need to fix the care crisis, improve pay and conditions for social care workers and clear the NHS waiting list backlog.

But the approach that the Government is seeking this increased funding for fails to set out a plan that will resolve these issues or to guarantee that Parliament will vote on a social care plan before spending the money the new levy raises.

The Government’s approach also breaks the Prime Minister’s promise that nobody will have to sell their home to pay for care.

At the same time, the Bill breaks the Government’s pledge not to increase National Insurance.

It raises taxes on employment that will disproportionately hit working families, young people, those on low and middle incomes and businesses trying to create more jobs, while leaving income from other sources untouched.

I supported attempts to address some of the impacts of the Bill. Ultimately, Conservative MPs steam rollered the legislation through Parliament with the minimum of debate.

It’s long past the time for ministers to get a grip on the supply chain crisis facing our economy.

While they act as if the problem will solve itself, businesses are telling government these problems are only going to grow. The serious disruption and added costs risk harming our recovery.

Ministers have a habit of shifting the burden of blame to businesses and they have derided warnings about the crisis.

But it is their incompetence and ideology which has helped create this crisis.

Their undermining of our country’s skills training system, failure to deliver on their promise to cut barriers facing businesses and belief in an insecure labour market with poor terms and conditions has created the circumstances for what we’re now experiencing.

The long-term problems in the HGV sector will not be solved by making drivers work longer hours but by training workers and improving terms and conditions.

What we are seeing across our economy is a wake-up call to government that insecurity and low pay cannot build the high performing economy we need.

It’s time for the Prime Minister to start taking this situation seriously and work across government to tackle worker shortages in key sectors and come up with a clear plan with businesses and unions to improve terms and conditions.

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