Category Archives: Pensions

Being Part of the UK Protects the Occupational Pensions of Hard Working Aberdonians

Being part of the UK protects the pensions of hard-working people in Aberdeen, a new European Union report confirmed.

In a devastating blow to the nationalist case for separation, it is now clear that breaking up the UK means the defined benefit pension schemes of people in Aberdeen could close.

European Commission Memo/14/239 confirms that cross-border pension schemes must be fully funded. Today this law does not apply to pension schemes based elsewhere in the UK but operating in Scotland, since we are one state in the EU.

If Scotland leaves the UK we would become foreign countries, meaning pension schemes operating across Scotland and the continuing UK would need to be fully funded. A number of impartial and independent experts have said that separating from the UK could mean pension schemes in Aberdeen would have to close.

Earlier this month senior SNP Ministers claimed that the matter would be resolved and that it would be alright on the night, however the publication of this memo makes clear that leaving the UK would put the pensions of hard working people in Aberdeen at risk.

Aberdeen South MP and Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Dame Anne Begg said:

“The pensions system in the UK works well through the pooling of resources, where the rewards are shared via sensible and efficient risk sharing. This protects the occupational pensions of people in Aberdeen who have worked all their lives to enjoy retirement.

“The EU has confirmed that Scottish company defined benefit pension schemes must overnight, if we leave the UK, fill a huge funding black hole. The implications for people in Aberdeen who are members of these pension schemes and for the companies themselves are huge.

“It’s now clear beyond doubt that independence puts the pensions of hard working Scots at risk.

“Filling the pensions black hole would come at huge cost to the companies and their employees, or would mean the break-up of these pension schemes. People in Aberdeen have a choice – believe the experts or believe Alex Salmond on pensions.”

MP Questions Government on Pension Changes

During yesterday’s Budget Debate in the Commons, Dame Anne raised questions over the Government’s pension changes and called for a rebrand of annuities.

Dame Anne said:

“Annuities need reform, I’ve called for annuity reform, my Select Committee has called for annuity reform and the Shadow Front bench has. Indeed the Government and the Pensions Industry has called for reform.

“As Government Members have emphasised again and again today, we need consumer choice so that people can make the right decision about how they will spend their own money. For some people paying off another debt might be the most sensible thing to do. However, the best thing for many people to do is to buy an annuity.

“Annuities are an excellent principle — someone saves into a pot and then buys something that lasts them to the end of their life. We do not know how long we will live after reaching pension age, so an annuity provides insurance: we know it will not run out before we reach the end of our life. It insures against old age.

“All of that is right. However — this is the big but — what if there is no annuity market? What will the many people for whom an annuity is the right choice do then? That is the question that I have for the Government. Did they intend to undermine and destroy the annuity market, or did they hope that a new form of annuity would rise phoenix-like out of the flames of their announcements last week? If the annuity market were to collapse, the choice that they say they want to give consumers will not be there for those for whom an annuity is absolutely the right choice.

“Do the Government anticipate that the annuity market will be undermined or strengthened?”

Dame Anne went on to call for an Annuity rebrand:

“Annuities have got a bad name because there have been low interest rates and low returns, but other products have the same problem. Some of them might actually give a worse return than annuities. What guarantee can the Government give that people who buy another product will not get a worse return than if they had chosen an annuity? We know that high charges and costs need to be dealt with.

“I wonder whether the Government thought about just rebranding annuities because they have such a bad name. Perhaps they could have called an annuity a pension for life, which might have changed people’s attitude. I wonder whether the Government intend to turn the UK private pension system into a saving system, and if they do, will tax reliefs remain?

Was that the Government’s intention, or is it an accidental consequence of last week’s proposals?”

You can read the full Budget debate, including Anne’s contribution here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140325/debtext/140325-0003.htm#14032588003560

Scotland Accountants Say Pensions at Risk with Independence

When Scotland’s accountants enter the referendum debate Scots sit up and listen. So this week’s Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS) report on pensions in a separate Scotland is significant.

In advance of the SNP’s white paper last year ICAS published a comprehensive account of the questions which leaving the UK poses for Scots pensions. Just wait for the white paper was the SNP response. Well ICAS did and this is their considered view.

There is something bigger at stake here however than shredded nationalist credibility. Pensions are an insurance policy against poverty in old age. Across the UK for a century we have each paid our share. Sharing risks so that we can all enjoy greater reward. We built this pensions system together across the UK. We all contribute together. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents helped build a system where everybody from Wick to Walsall can be sure of dignity in retirement. We built it up together over 100 years. Governments come and go but the sharing remains. The Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish people who built this system did so on the basis that we share our resources so that those in need get what they need.

As a United Kingdom we spend far more on the state pension and associated pensioner benefits than in any other area of social security. Last year alone £8bn (£6 million in constituency Aberdeen South alone) was redistributed to our poorest pensioners through Labour’s pension credit and the total redistributed to poor pensioners is almost £75bn since Gordon Brown introduced the top up in 2003.

The UK regulatory architecture protects the pensions of Scots wherever they live across the UK. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) together provide a UK wide firewall for Scots against the loss of pension savings.

The PPF pays pensions to UK workers who otherwise would lose their pension savings when their employer went bust. Just ask the Ayrshire steel workers left high and dry and facing a retirement in penury when Allied Steel went bust. Steel workers who had paid into their pension for a lifetime were suddenly faced with losing everything. Until the PPF stepped in. Or ask the British and Irish workers what happened when Waterford Crystal went bust. While Waterford’s UK employees are protected by the PPF, its Irish workers continue to this day their legal fight to get the pension they paid for and were promised. Every year 16 000 Scots pensions are paid and managed by the PPF.

The UK pensions system, which Scots helped build together with our partner nations, demonstrates why pooling our resources at the UK level is not just sensible, but a statement of our common values. It ensures uniformity of provision for Scots even as the cost of dignity in old age for Scots pensioners whether through illness, disability or poverty associated with illness and disability.

Our system is not perfect nor is the system in any nation; but we work hard together, generation by generation, to improve it. We built it together across these islands. A shared vision sustains the pension system –  a shared commitment to a dignified retirement based on sharing our resources in the long term so all can enjoy a dignified retirement. The UK system is built, it is sustainable and it has a broad spread population to support it; a system built through the generations and there for the generations to come. That’s something worth celebrating.

You can read the full report from ICAS here: http://icas.org.uk/News/Latest_News/Pensions_questions_not_answered_-_ICAS/

Calls for greater transparency to make charge cap viable

Anne delivered the key note address at a recent Westminster Employment Forum event where she called on the Government to force insurers to disclose all charges to make a cap work.

You can read more about her speech here: http://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/news-and-analysis/politics/anne-begg-calls-for-greater-transparency-to-make-charge-cap-viable/2002595.article

Dame Anne puts renewable energy ‘on the map’ for WWF’s Earth Hour

Aberdeen South MP Dame Anne Begg showed her support this week for energy powered by nature, as part of WWF’s Earth Hour 2013. Members of Parliament were asked to put wind, wave, and solar power symbols on a UK weather map to symbolise the need for more renewable energy – to help protect our planet.

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As the lights go out for this year’s Earth Hour, on Saturday 23 March at 8.30pm, people will be asked to show their support for energy that works with the power of nature, not against it.

In the UK we are consuming three times our fair share of the planet’s natural resources. Our reliance on high carbon fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas is overheating the atmosphere and affecting the climate. The future of our planet relies on us moving away from unsustainable energy sources and on to renewable energy.

Dame Anne said: “I am always pleased to support WWF’s Earth Hour as it’s a simple idea that brings together millions of people across the globe who all care about one thing – our planet. I have been delighted to see how many of my constituents from Aberdeen South have already pledged their support this year.

“In the UK, our energy system needs to change and I want wind, wave and solar power to be part of the future. If we are serious about shaping a better future for generations to come, then we need to act now.”

Last year over 7 million people in the UK took part in WWF’s Earth Hour. This unique global phenomenon encourages every corner of the globe to switch off for one hour and includes iconic landmarks such as The Houses of Parliament, the Sydney Opera House and the Taj Mahal.

Darren Shirley from WWF said: “We’ve only got one planet, so it’s vital we do everything we can to protect it. There are important decisions to be made now and we have a choice of either a fossil fuel future or a clean green future. Renewable energy provides an opportunity for the UK and can contribute towards economic growth and create jobs whilst protecting our planet.”

To find out more about WWF’s Earth Hour and register to take part please go to: wwf.org.uk/earthhour and join millions of people who are signing up to the big switch off.

Dame Anne supports FairFuel UK’s call for cut in fuel duty

Aberdeen South MP Dame Anne Begg joined Quentin Willson and his FairFuelUK team in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon 4th March to add her voice to the call for a better deal on petrol & diesel taxation in the forthcoming Budget.

Quentin Willson and Dame Anne Begg MP
Quentin Willson and Dame Anne Begg MP

Dame Anne said, ‘I have been contacted by a number of my constituents who support FairFuelUK’s campaign and I know how seriously rising fuel and energy prices are affecting households in Aberdeen South, particularly in the current economic climate. Indeed, the Government’s decision to increase VAT to 20% has added around 3p per litre to the price of fuel.

‘I agree that the market should act in the interests of motorists, small businesses and local communities and I know that many people remain concerned that the price we pay at the pump remains high.’

Quentin Willson said, ‘We were delighted to meet with Dame Anne at our Westminster Lobby. Families and businesses are struggling under the dead weight of paying 80p per litre in combined VAT and Fuel Duty. This is hurting families, damaging businesses and holding back growth. Our research shows that high fuel costs are the nation’s Number 1 financial priority. The Chancellor needs to be bold and cut fuel duty in his Budget. A significant cut in Fuel Duty will give the economy the kick start it needs. Much of the perceived loss in revenue will be made up by the tax take from the resultant economic growth. With sterling’s recent fall and rising oil prices the approaching spectre of diesel at £1.60 litre is a nightmare this country simply can’t face.’

FairFuelUK has commissioned research from two nationally respected Think Tanks that clearly shows that a cut in Fuel Duty will boost growth. Here are those two reports and where to read them…

NIESR Report: www.fairfueluk.com/niesr_report.html
CEBR Report: www.fairfueluk.com/cebr.html