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Government moving to sensible (Labour) policy on immigration. Ok on pension age too

Posted on 25 June 2010 | 4:06pm

This coalition malarkey is proving to be even more consensual than we thought. It now appears that whatever immigration policy people voted for, what they are probably going to get is neither the one the Tories campaigned on, nor the Lib Dems’, but Labour’s.

Business appears to have won the argument that the Tories’ idea of a rigid cap on non-EU immigrants risks cutting off workers that the country needs and wants from abroad. Er, like wot Labur sed.

The reason we know this is because of the new approach of briefing out the deliberations of Cabinet committees chaired by Nick Clegg, presumably so that we can all be impressed at how terribly busy he is.

But it is also evidence of how keen he is to support his boss that he seems to have been the one defending the Tories’ election-time gimmick – oops, sorry, of course I meant their thought-through policy – whilst Tory ministers Michael Gove and David Willetts (three and a half brains) are doing the ‘hold on a minute’ routine we assumed was Cleggo’s role.

The shift appears to be driven by worries that banks and multinationals, among the Tories’ closer friends, need to be able to hire and fire globally if London is to remain a key financial centre.

So step forward a variation of the Australian points-based system GB never tired of mentioning during the election campaign. I don’t suppose it is much consolation to Gordon that the coalition parties, having for different reasons and with different emphasis rubbished this policy, now appear set upon embracing it. Nor will it be much consolation to Aussie PM Kevin Rudd who has gone very quickly from stratospheric ratings to the exit door marked internal putsch. At least David Cameron has never had the stratospheric ratings to worry falling from.

So as to show I am not wholly driven by loathing of all things Tory, may I express qualified support for their attempts to raise the pension age.

The French were out revolting yesterday at the idea of a rise from 60 to 62, so the Tories might have their work cut out with a long-term goal of 70.

But governments have a responsibility to adapt to changed circumstances. State pension ages were set in 1940, when the average life expectancy beyond retirement was seven years. It is decades beyond that now.

Provided the shift is matched by an anti-ageism agenda, so that older people can find the jobs in the first place, I cannot get as worked up about it as the unions appear to be.

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  • Wyrdtimes

    That we still “need” any skills from abroad while there are so many unemployed at home is an indication of Labour’s abject failure to train our own people.

    No surprise there though, Labour failed the people, especially the English people in every area of policy.

  • Gert

    As a professional office worker I relish that I won’t be forced to retire at 60, especially when I have observed many such people, including my mother, go from middle-aged to elderly within weeks of retiring in their mid sixties.

    My partner is 62 and has always done manual work – from the age of 14. He has noticed that his body is less resilient than it was – he says ‘All I have is my strength’. He currently works as a pub manager, which sounds glamorous, but, given the hours, is barely above minimum wage. He knows many people from the building trade who are so riddled with arthritis and rheumatism they simply can’t work at their trades past their mid-50s. Low paid retail-sector jobs are no substitute, especially for those who have dependent children, or are renting rather than having small mortgage repayments.

    I would imagine that as the State Pension Age rises, the number of people genuinely on Incapacity Benefit or Pension Credit will rise, too.

  • Joe Brown

    And who first thought of the Aussie points system years ago,and were rubbished for it, THE TORIES,any good ideas the tories had, Labour adopted them,who first thought of PFI the Tories but did’nt go throught with it and when Labour came to power in 97 they pushed it through and now we’re paying the consquences.

  • Tony surr

    Alastair the Pension Policy is a total disaster for working people. Professional people in the media and politics just do not get this at all. Pleople like you for example are defined by your careers, your job brings you status and power. When it ceases something of your self ends with it. Most working people in ordinary jobs do not define themselves in this way, their jobs are things they do to survive. Often they have all the stress but none of the authority that you and all politicians take for granted, most people toil on in this situation with one eye on the happy day they can retire. This happiness is effectively being stolen from us.
    Think about it, ask ‘ordinary’ people what they really think and you may hopefully change your mind
    We are not in the 1940’s anymore, as citizens of the one of the richest countries in the world we deserve to share in its prosperity. If pensions are costing more then we need to raise income taxes, this applies to the defecit too, most people would happily accept this in the knowledge that they too will benefit in future. At the moment we are beginning to feel like we have been cheated.

  • Tom

    I agree that we probably need to extend the pension age – but then I, like you, will spend my working life in a profession that is a) not that physically demanding and b) sufficiently well-paid to be able to pay into a private pension, or have an employer do so for us.

    So while journalists, politicians, lawyers, managers, doctors, office workers, and so on might well be on board with the pensionable age increasing, it’s important to recognise how much harder a change will be for people working in construction, manufacturing, and other physically hard and relatively poorly paid jobs.

  • John

    “banks and multinationals, among the Tories’ closer friends”

    And NewLabour were well known for their staunch opposition to the interests of big business… At least the Tories actually know where they stand and are ideologically comfortable with cosying up with multinationals unlike Tony Blair who did much to discredit what passed for the Left in the UK

  • stevebrundish

    Governmemt is about priorities and I think left leaning parties should allways aim to have the lowest possible pension age. Royalty may live to 100 plus but most working people who may drink and smoke a bit and whose diet will not be ideal will die much younger. Having the oldest retirement age in the developed world will be a discrace and with VAT at 20% and a top rate of tax at 50% we can afford decent pensions and its a simply a matter of choice. Labour should make a commitment to bring the pension age back down as soon as possible and not take on the Tories work till you drop attitude. If They do this and develop policies that the average person can relate to they will becolme the natural party of government if they dont they will become irrelevant.

  • G Jones


    Must disagree with you on raising pension age as this is a totally regressive measure. Even though the average life expectancy may be going up the poorest can still expect to die significantly sooner than the better off. So poorer people will be forced to pay into the pot for longer and enjoy a shorter retirement until ill health and the Grim Reaper come to visit.

    Is it really fair to expect the poorest to subsidise the dignified old age of the better off when it is being denied to them.

    All on the left should oppose such an option

  • Mary

    Totally agree with Tony Surr. Think A/C has forgotten, or perhaps never experienced ordinary working life, doubt hes ever been badly paid, and can pick and choose what he wants to do. I wouldnt want to retire if that were my life! Blog gives an interesting insight into the total lack of undersanding clearly held, as illustrated by A/C, by powerful people in the Labour Party, it explains a lot.

  • Bar Bar of Oz

    Australian Prime Minister Rudd who was heading to lead Labor to a disaster has been executed by the party and his replacement, Julia Gillard, has already brought the government back to a winning position.

    This is clearly what should have happened in UK Labour but instead you misguidedly propped up Gordon and ensured Labour’s defeat.

    Result – in Australia the almost certain re-election of our Labor government; for you another 5 years of whingeing about Nick Clegg!

  • steve

    Your wrong to support the tories with the pension age increase….
    1 the ending of the statutory retirement age is something that the govt must get rid of under \\EU law. it is not linked to payment of state pensison and is no measure of when people actually retire, it just allows the low paid and middle classes more choice about when and if they want to retire…
    2 The life expetancy rates vary vastly amonsts low paid and the wealth, they talk of dealing with this seperately but it is simply not possible, AVG LIFE EXPETANCY OF MAN FROM GLASGOW 66…….= NO PENSION

  • Exhausted

    If you had ever had to endure physically demanding poorly paid domestic work for a living you would realise the cruel implications of this policy. I disagree with you on this one Alastair.

  • kathy

    I think the retirement age should reflect the type of job a person does. Someone in an office based job where no physical effort is needed would be able to work for much longer. However, someone in a physically demanding job such as construction or warehouse job involving lifting heavy goods would probably be unable to do that job for longer. My husband has been a bricklayer all his life and already at sixty he is developing arthritis in his knees and hands and back problems. At present these are not severe enough for him to lose time off work but in the future I have no doubt that these problems will worsen. I do not think that a standard age will be suitable for this reason and think there should be some allowance made for the type of job done. I realise also that some jobs, while not physical, are mentally straining and I think there needs to be perhaps a set age, but with some leaway to adjust it in certain circumstances.

  • A.Roberts

    John,-is that the Tony Blair that won thee elections youre talking about?

  • Graham Jones

    Can I just clarify that(G Jones) is a different person to me. I actually agree with AC, that the pension age can be raised. However, it should be done in a future programme, giving due warning to people, and allowing them to plan ahead for the changes.
    Life expectancy has changed and we have to move with the times. I would caution, however, that people above a certain age shouldn’t be forced into manual jobs that require heavy shifts. There has to be a medical dimension to protect people from being press-ganged into certain types of work.
    There is a case for the government, to now continue with higher funding for further and higher education, as there will be re-training required, if they are to make a delayed retirement programme work properly. Even if the funding is mostly directed into 6 month programmes and 12 month courses, it is essential that funding for employment programmes continues.
    It is also imperative that Colleges and Universities recieve proper and full funding, as they supply the bulk of the training and research, that enhances the intellectual property of the British economy.

  • Graham Jones

    NOTE: G Jones is a different person to me.

    I happen to think that a raise in retirement age was inevitable, but not in the cut-throat way the coalition have decided to deal with it. It needed careful planning, to ensure that nobody approaching retirement age, would have their plans disrupted.

    Thanks to 13 years of Labour we have an NHS to be proud of, where physicians, doctors, nurses and therapists, have ensured we all are healthier than we have ever been. However, the retirement age is a drop in the ocean compared to the deadly cuts that are being introduced.

    Osbourne has announced the most vile and disturbing programme of cuts since the days of Thatcher, so much so, that he makes the child-snatcher from Chitty-chitty-bang-bang seem a pleasant chap compared to him. The Fabian Society’s findings on the cuts are revealing. People seem to think they will only bite to the tune of £170, for the poorest in society. Not so – if you include the cost of services being cut, it will rise into the thousands.

    Mr Osbourne was only too quick to point out stealth taxes during the Labour government. One difference George, they were aimed at people with higher incomes, not the lower and middle income earners. Your cuts are designed to prop up a Class driven society, where the rich and plaintive get on in life, while the majority pay for it. I don’t know who taught you the meaning of ‘fair’, but it’s obvious you skipped class, the day it was being taught at that public school you attended.

    Labour have to fight this savage programme with every weapon in their armoury. If it is passed, then they must keep fighting, and make sure the Lib-dem’s part in it isn’t forgotten.

  • Frank

    On the issue of pensions, previous posters have already pointed out the inequity of asking hard-working farmers or factory workers to work as long as those in comfortable employment. Anyone who has tried working on a farm will know that it is simply ridiculous to ask people to work till 70.

    On the much-repeated point that the pensionable age was set in the 1940s, I would also say this is a questionable argument. We have never been richer as a nation, and if we could afford to pay pensions then, we can certainly afford to do so now. The real issue, in my view, is one that all politicians at the top never address: redistribution.

  • Chris lancashire

    Today’s comment accurately sums up the difference between New Labour and real Labour. New Labour lead by its metropolitan elite doesn’t have the blindest bit of understanding of the lives of those who vote Labour. To expect those of 60+ to keep on in hard, manual jobs is unrealistic and shows a complete lack of understanding of what people actually do.
    The sad thing is that the next generation of leadership – Milliband/Milliband/Balls/Harman – comes from exactly the same stable.

  • Alan Dixon

    Having survived to pensionable age I am quite concerned that I live long enough to squander my fair share of it. I was pretty outraged that Radio 4 allowed IDS to get away with a statement that people were now living into their 90’s. ONS give a life expectancy for UK males as 76.5 Yrs, females 81 yrs. This is 5 years longer than the 71 years of the 1940’s not decades.

  • jackhayes

    AC: “I cannot get as worked up about it as the unions appear to be.” I would imagine Tony Blair feels the same. But for working men and women in physically demanding jobs (especially men working in the construction and farming industries) the prospect of working on until their 70s is not something to look forward to, and may contribute to reducing their life expectancy, in fact reducing it considerably!.

  • matthewzarbcousin

    Stop worrying about the baby boomers, please. It’s irritating. The same generation that voted for tax cuts fromm 1979 – 1997 and decimated this country, whilst their bank balances were protected are now, thanks to increasing the retirement age, taking jobs from young people?


  • Guthrum’s godfather

    Labour’s immigration policy in one word: treason.

    PS What happened to the other 21 comments on the cached version of this page?