View the article online at http://citywire.co.uk/money/article/a878344
Labour claims Tories 'getting away with murder' on pensions
Shadow work and pensions minister Owen Smith has goes on the offensive as a long awaited pension report is expected to emerge.
Labour’s shadow secretary for work and pensions Owen Smith has attacked the government for ‘getting away with murder’ on pension policies.
Speaking at a Trades Union Congress conference, Smith (pictured) said the government had been able to get away with reforms such as last year’s pension freedoms and increases to state pension ages in 2011 without a challenge.
‘I do think the Tories have been getting away with murder on pensions in recent years, implementing pretty radical reforms with scant consultation and little certainty about whether they are likely to succeed,’ he said.
He admitted the party had not forced a serious discussion about pensions for a long time, but pledged this would change.
‘We haven’t had a serious conversation in parliament about pensions in a long, long time,’ Smith said.
‘My view is that we do need to ask some pretty fundamental basic questions about pensions, perhaps get back to some of the first principles about them and have that robust assessment about what they are for.’
Smith accused the current government of ‘gambling’ with the futures of savers, and pointed to worries over increasing debt levels and worsening savings ratios as policy failures.
He also said Labour had not been bold enough to make its mark in the pensions debate.
'Labour have been too cowed in this debate, we have been embarrassed far too long about the 75p rise in the state pension [in 1999]. It was a great mistake… we need to get on the front foot once more,’ he said.
At the Labour conference in September last year Smith promised the party would challenge the government following the introduction of the pension freedoms.
The party has largely been silent on pensions since, but in recent weeks has backed the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign in parliament.
Smith said Labour would table an opposition debate in the coming weeks regarding the campaign, and it would present options for transitional arrangement for women born in the 50s affected by increases in their state pension age.
‘We have been leading [the Waspi debate] in parliament in recent months,’ Smith said. 'They've been short changed by the government.'
Smith also revealed his party would publish a long-awaited report into pensions ‘in the next few days’.
The report, which was written by Pensions Institute professor David Blake, was originally commissioned in May 2014 by one of Smith’s predecessors, Rachel Reeves.
However, its publication has been pushed back a number of times since then.
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