SNP secure vote on UK pension cuts

MPs will finally have an opportunity to debate and vote on public sector pensions after the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru confirmed that they would use their allotted opposition day to debate changes proposed by the UK Government.

The move comes after more than two million public sector workers took part in a Day of Action last week over the proposals, which will mean that they work longer, pay more in pension contributions but receive a smaller pension when they do finally retire.

Despite having 36 opposition day debates since public sector pension changes were first announced in June 2010 – including a debate on the day of the strikes - Labour have so far failed to put the issue on the agenda in Parliament.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“It is clear from the day of action by public sector workers last week that there is real anger over these reforms, yet there has been no debate and no vote at Westminster.

“While it is unsurprising that Coalition Ministers have been silent, it is shocking that the Labour party, who have had thirty-six opposition day opportunities to raise this since the reforms were announced, have refused to put this on the agenda. Given the strength of public feeling, we must now have that debate.

“The need for affordable, sustainable and fair public sector pensions is of critical importance to everyone, which is why the short term cash grab by the UK Government is so concerning. Long-term pension reforms must be taken forward with consent and in partnership which is why it was so regrettable that UK Ministers appeared to be relishing the prospect of strike action.

“This will also be an opportunity to debate the UK Government’s threat to cut Scotland’s budget by £100 million next year alone, on top of drastic cuts to Scotland’s budget, if the Scottish Government does not implement the UK Government’s immediate levy on pensions contributions.

“It is crucial that MP’s at last debate this issue which is why the SNP and Plaid Cymru will ensure that the voice of ordinary public sector workers is heard in parliament.”

Plaid Cymru Work and Pensions spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, said:

“The pension changes are simply unfair.

“These proposals mean that millions of hard-working public sector employees, including teachers and nurses, will pay more from their salaries each month but receive less money when they retire. Work longer, pay more, get less.

“The UK Government will not discuss pension changes made in 2007-08 which, according to figures from the National Audit Office, show savings of 14% as a result.

“Plaid Cymru have recently uncovered the fact that the UK Government have carried out no re-evaluation of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme since those changes. So how can they claim that the scheme is unaffordable?

“The increase in contributions from salaries is not going to fund future pensions, as the government claims. Rather it is going to fill the hole created by the bankers bailout and by regulatory failure.

“With public sector wages being frozen and 710,000 job losses under new Con-Dem plans, this is a full frontal attack on the public sector, the backbone of our countries.

“It is wholly unacceptable that such major changes have not been properly debated in Parliament.

“The trade unions should consider why Labour have not called for this debate, that it is Plaid Cymru and the SNP who have done so and why Labour’s front bench do a disappearing act whenever strike action is mentioned.”