Pensions minister Steve Webb has attacked Labour plans to bring more women into the single tier state pension, suggesting they would cost £4.5bn over a 30 year period.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday as part of the second reading of the pensions bill, Webb said Labour plans would be expensive and show a disregard for spending controls.
The Department for Work and Pensions has published proposals to scrap state pension means testing in favour of a flat rate, single tier payment of £144 a week for future retirees. The new state pension will be introduced in April 2016.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne criticised the “injustice” of 700,000 women born between April 1951 and 1953 losing out under reforms.
For example, a woman who retires aged 63 in 2015 will potentially draw a £107 basic state pension under currently rules. However, a man who is the same age will draw £144 a week when he retires three years later in 2018. Labour MPs argue it is unfair that it will result in a man and a woman who are the same age drawing different pension amounts.
The Government plans to raise the state pension age gradually for women from 60 to 65 in the run up to 2018, two years earlier than Labour planned, before equalising the pension ages for men and women at 66 in 2020.
Responding to Byrne today, Webb said: “There has been some suggestion that he and his colleagues want such women to opt into the single tier. Is he aware the cumulative cost for 30 years would be around £4.5bn and is it an example of his laser like focus on public spending control?”
Last week, shadow chancellor Ed Balls pledged to cap welfare spending, including pensions.
Byrne also hit out at the impact raising the personal allowance was having on auto-enrolment schemes. Auto-enrolment contributions only begin after the personal allowance with Byrne claiming increases would see up to 1.1 million people miss out on saving over the parliament.
He also criticised the increase in qualifying years from 30 to 35 by claiming it would see 100,000 pensioners lose out. Pensioners lose £4.11 a week for each year they are under the 35 required and Byrne warns the reductions will leave many “too close to the poverty line”.