I am sure Steve Webb is uncomfortable with the fact that he will be better off to the tune of £43,000 or so on account of the policy he is shepherding through Parliament.
He is probably also dismayed at the thought that someone his age who has worked all their adult life but has not been lucky enough to be offered a generous final salary pension, and who has no private pension at all, will be £35,000 worse off. That, as they say, is politics.
I am talking about the figures from Hymans Robertson which show that the pension minister will be better off to the tune of £37 a week as a result of the introduction of the single-tier pension. That income would cost around £50,000 to buy through an annuity.
It will cost the minister an extra £6,720 in National Insurance contributions.
Prime minister David Cameron is also doubtless embarrassed at the thought of getting an extra £37 a week – he clearly does not need it – even if he will have to pay £480 extra NI for one more year than Webb to get his £50,000 pension uplift.
To be completely accurate, it is not publically known whether Webb was contracted out into the DB scheme on offer in his nine years at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, before joining public service. I have put the question, and he has refused to say.
Similarly, the Prime Minister has refused to confirm whether he was contracted out during his six and a half year stint at Carlton TV. Both men are refusing to reveal the extent to which they will benefit from a policy they are putting in place.
To be fair to them, Labour, who one would think would defend the poorest sectors of our society, has not formally opposed the carve-up either and I am not 100 per cent sure why.
Labour members of the Department for Work and Pensions select committee that I have spoken to talk of a lack of lobbying on the point at committee stage, where the focus was directed towards valid issues relating to specific groups of women who would lose out. But submissions from Aon Hewitt, Towers Watson and Unite did flag up the issue clearly. Given the number of Labour front-benchers who will be similarly advantaged you would think they would want to get on the front foot on this.
The Hymans figures spell out with great clarity the way the single-tier pension gives piles of cash to contracted out workers at the expense of those contracted in, who will in many, many scenarios lose a quarter of their state pension.
Many of those contracted in workers, who by definition will include those without any other pension than state, will be worse off when they retire as a result of the twin reforms of single-tier and auto-enrolment.
I interviewed Scottish Equitable’s Stewart Ritchie, the original pension guru, when he retired. He said the biggest future issue facing pensions would be the public/private divide. And so it has come to pass.
Pension apartheid is a sensitive phrase. But whatever your view on the terminology, these reforms will certainly increase the yawning gap between the pensions haves and have-nots in the coming decades.
Most people would accept the fairness of everyone losing state pension if it means we all pay less tax in the long run. What they would not accept, if they had not had the wool so completely pulled over their eyes by what must be one of the greatest PR exercises in parliamentary history, is that they are taking such savage cuts so that public sector workers can not only keep their benefits protected but actually get more. Or, for that matter, so that colleagues who contracted out into a personal pension can get the same state pension as them and keep their contracted-out pot, and take a quarter of it as tax-free cash.
What I do keep hearing is that Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander’s 2011 pledge to public sector workers of a deal that would last for 25 years will soak up most of the cash saved. Steve Webb cannot be blamed for that.
John Greenwood is editor of Corporate Adviser