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Moneybox Saturday, 5 July, 2003, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
'Work til you drop' plan denied
Money Box presenter Paul Lewis speaking to Pensions Minister Malcolm Wicks

The government's new pensions minister has denied that plans to abolish retirement age were a back door way of making people work longer.

The proposal was part of draft new rules to scrap age discrimination. Under these plans companies would lose the right to set a fixed retirement age until at least the age of 70 - a policy that has been labelled "work 'til you drop".

There's absolutely no question of the state retirement age being increased

Pensions Minister Malcolm Wicks

But in his first broadcast interview since taking up his job, Malcolm Wicks told Money Box on Radio 4: "That's a false judgement on a perfectly sensible policy.

"We should enable people, if they want to, to work past retirement age. If people want to work past 65 into their 70s we should give them a choice to do so.

"But there's absolutely no question of the state retirement age being increased."

The minister also denied there was a crisis for him to address.

"I don't think there's a general pension crisis. I don't think we should overuse the word 'crisis'. But for many people yes there is a real sense of crisis.

For the first time we're not penalising people with extra pension savings

Pensions Minister Malcolm Wicks

"When I meet people who have lost all their pension or some of their pension when their pension scheme has gone bust, for those people yes there is a crisis. But to use the term generally is unhelpful."

About half the pensioner population will be eligible for the new means-tested pension credit, that begins in October.

But critics - including the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee - say the government's own financial plans showed that by April 2006 one in four pensioners who are entitled to pension credit will still not have claimed it.

But the minister said his personal target was higher than that.

I don't think I am out of touch

Pensions Minister Malcolm Wicks

"I'm absolutely determined that while we sensibly have a target of three million people getting pension credit by 2006. I want to do everything possible to make sure that take up moves towards 100%," he said.

"For the first time we're not penalising people with extra pension savings, we're rewarding them. And on average they'll be getting 400 a year.

"I don't think I am out of touch. I hope to be a listening minister, listening to elderly people about their needs in relation to pensions and services if I am to do my job properly."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 5 July, 2003 at 1204 BST.

 WATCH/LISTEN
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Paul Lewis
speaks to Pensions Minister Malcolm Wicks
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See also:

03 Jul 03 | Northern Ireland
01 Jul 03 | Business
21 Jun 03 | Business
17 Oct 02 | Politics
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