Pension age rise brought forward
The Government is to bring forward an increase in the state pension age to 67 under plans to prolong the working life of millions of people under 50, according to the pensions minister.
Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb said timescales set by the previous Labour administration, under which the pension age was to be increased to 67 in 2036 and 68 by 2046, were "too slow".
In an interview with The Observer, the politician argued more drastic action needed to be taken to avoid a major pensions crisis as the life expectancy of UK residents continues to rise.
He said: "Everybody knows we are living longer. It is like an express train. I am even more convinced now than I was a year ago that we are running to standstill on all this stuff. In a world (where) you are going to live into your late 80s, and before we know it (into your) 90s, we think now we have got to move on these things."
Ministers are already pushing the pensions Bill through Parliament that will raise the age at which men and women can claim a pension to 66 by 2020.
But it has been reported that the retirement age could rise to 67 as early as 2026 - affecting millions of people in their 40s who would have expected to stop work at 66.
Mr Webb said previous governments had failed to address a huge increase in life expectancy and argued that bringing forward the rise in the state pension age was crucial. "The timescales for 67 and 68 are too slow," he said. "If it is 67 in the mid-2030s we will be going backwards in terms of share of your life in retirement. I mean the problem would be worse than 20 years before."
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith insisted the coalition is yet to decide on the timescale for reforms. He told the BBC: "We have been clear about this all along. The move to 67 will happen but the question only is on the timing, that's all, and we haven't made a decision about that yet."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Raising the state pension age is unfair. We may be living longer but the gap between the life expectancy of the rich and the poor is getting bigger. Making people wait longer for a state pension has much less impact on the better off. They lose a smaller proportion of their lifetime pension income, are more likely to have a decent pension of their own, and are more likely to have the kind of jobs that they will enjoy doing for longer.
"But it has a major impact on the less well-off. They are far less likely to be in work in their 60s, and even if they are may well have heavy physical jobs that they will not be able to extend. Raising the state pension age does nothing to create jobs for older less-skilled workers."