Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cameron Denies He Would Make Women Keep Working until 66; Confusion over Retirement Age as May Says Nothing Is Ruled Out

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cameron Denies He Would Make Women Keep Working until 66; Confusion over Retirement Age as May Says Nothing Is Ruled Out

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

DAVID CAMERON was today forced to clarify Tory plans to raise the retirement age to 66 amid claims that millions of women could have to work three years longer.

The Tory leader denied that he was insisting that women postpone their retirement to age 66 by 2016, which would hit the retirement hopes of some women currently in their fifties.

But at the same time, his work and pensions spokesman Theresa May said the issue of when women would be allowed to retire on a state pension will go into a review, with nothing ruled out. The controversy came at a critical point in the annual Conservative conference in Manchester, with this morning's big speech by shadow chancellor George Osborne.

He was announcing "retirement at 66" for men as part of an austerity package to repair the public finances.

Other spending clampdowns in a "comprehensive" package were to include holding back pay for millions of public sector workers and squeezing benefits. Chancellor Alistair Darling pre-empted his speech by announcing that the pay of judges, GPs and senior officials should be frozen to help rein back the [pounds sterling]175billion deficit and deprive Mr Osborne of an easy saving.

However, the shadow chancellor proved far bolder with his pension plan, which brings forward by a decade the existing Labour plan to raise the retirement age.

Mr Osborne's plans are to delay the retirement age for men from 65 to 66 by 2016, a move that Tories said would save [pounds sterling]13 billion over the course of a decade.

Labour reacted with undisguised glee and were preparing to launch a mass campaign to tell people in middle age that the Conservatives would rob them of a year's retirement.

But the real controversy was building over the position of women planning to retire in the next decade, who under current Government plans will get their pension at 63 by 2016.

Their position was left unclear, despite Mr Cameron's assurances in a round of TV and radio interviews that an immediate introduction of retirement at 66 for them would be "too great a leap".

"That's not what we said," he told the BBC. "But clearly we do think that over time we will need to have an equal retirement age."

Ms May, asked if the age would be equalised by 2016, said: "The review will be looking at what should happen to the state pension age for men and for women and at what point it should be raised to 66."

Yvette Cooper, Labour's Work and Pensions Secretary, was expected to lead a Government charge that the Conservatives had left women in their fifties in the dark about when they could plan to retire. Her spokesman claimed that any women in her mid-fifties had cause to believe that she would have to work longer.

Mr Cameron was unapologetic for delivering tough news to the country, however, and put the blame squarely on the state of the public finances under Labour. …

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