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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Your comments: State pension
We asked for your comments on the state pension following our Money Box Investigates programme.

Here is a selection of your views.

The citizen's pension seems an equitable idea, especially if it is linked to salaries and inflation.

It might concentrate the minds of politicians if all final salary pension schemes in the public sector were converted to money purchase schemes like most working people.

Politicians appear to be totally remote from the real world.
Michael Grounsell

The state pension matters to most people, only the rich do not care.

The current arrangements for pensions are a mess. It is time to get rid of the whole thing and start again with a citizens pension.

There should be 105 a week to all single people over the age of 65, as long as they have lived in England for a certain number of years.

This issue will be the big one at the next election and the election after that
P James
New Zealand has shown the way; the two opposition parties have begun to grapple with the need for change, it is time the government woke up.

Pensioners vote. This issue will be the big one at the next election and the election after that.
P James

A citizen's pension is a simple affordable solution to give a basic, fair pension with minimum bureaucracy.

What is also required is a simple solution to people's lack of confidence in additional company or personal pensions. Without that, people will still be discouraged from saving for retirement, and their retirement will still be a matter of survival rather than enjoyment.
Steve Ross

I can understand and support the concept of targeting benefits such as the state pension at those that are in greatest need but the system just does not seem to be working.

It is absurd that the thrifty are penalised at the expense of others who either cannot - or prefer not to - save for their future. Saving should be encouraged and rewarded, not punished.

No state pension system will be perfect but the citizen's pension seems to be the least bad option I have come across.

With the lowest pension in Europe, it really is about time we had a pension that allowed pensioners to live, not just exist. There should be a minimum pension of at least 135.00 per week, inflation linked.

It is worth remembering that our government representatives all accrue high value pensions. If they took less, there may be more to go around elsewhere. One rule for some and another for most of the others!

There are above inflation increases in many areas coming through, including electricity, council tax, which is constantly eating into the non-inflation proof pensions.
Michael N Inman

The easiest way of ensuring that the poorest actually get a decent pension is to increase the state pension to a reasonable level, but recoup it from richer people by taxing it at some high proportion, for instance twice the level.

This would cut down on bureaucracy and ensure everyone got their entitlement. There would also then be no means-testing.

Maybe also the retirement age could be staggered: for instance all people, men and women, could retire at 63 or 64, but they could carry on working at half-rate and half-pay till they were 68 or so, thereby saving the exchequer lots and giving themselves a suitable way to retire slowly.
Mike Ball

As someone who works in the pensions industry, I fully support the need for change and for simplifying the systems.

However to say that Gordon Brown is the one who wrecked the pension system is simplistic and ignores many who have more guilt.

I would highlight the companies who took contribution holidays in the years of booming shares and then refused to take the rough after the smooth. They have now reduced people's ability to save for a decent pension by shutting good schemes.

If we want the retirement benefit levels of Europe then we must be prepared to pay through tax or compulsory savings
Polly Nomial
Even worse though, are the actuaries who sanctioned this. Actuaries are supposed to be primarily responsible to the trustees not the companies and are supposed to have a duty to the wider public interest. I fail to see how their actions support this.

But the real problem is that most people want something without having to pay for it. If people are living longer people need to save more money. Instead, people are trying to defy the laws of mathematics.

There is no free lunch. If we want the retirement benefit levels of Europe then we must be prepared to pay through tax or compulsory savings.
Polly Nomial

Please, please, please, can we have reform now. A citizen's pension should ensure a basic entitlement to all, reward those who save and reduce the complexity and cost of administration to help underpin the cost of change.

After all, the tax-payer should be funding the pensions not the costs of administering expensive means-tests.
Paul Farmer

A citizen's pension as provided in New Zealand is both appealing and necessary.

Paying a decent flat-rate pension that people can live on is far better than a means-tested system that leaves pensioners living in poverty and that costs millions to administer.

I would vote for the party that commits to delivering a citizens' pension as its first legislative action.
Alastair McDonald

From some point soon you should start saving for your pension yourself, in your own personal state or private pension. No hand-outs whatsoever.

If you have contributed peanuts all your life, you are going to be poor
By and large you get the pension you deserve, but people are just not prepared to face reality. If you have contributed peanuts all your life, you are going to be poor.

That may sound awful, but why should a 20-something chip in when a pensioner had 50 years to sort themselves out and did not?

Means-testing has come about because it is unacceptable in a modern society to let people starve. The problems are that it is expensive to administer and degrading.

The basic state pension should be set at a level that will cover an individual's basic living requirements.

The citizen's pension has much merit. However, I would not be at all happy with a system that denies a pension to someone who has worked in this country for decades but retires abroad.

The PPI's suggestion seems to be another form of means-testing, in that not everyone would get it. From the information on this website, it sounds very much like the Guarantee Credit.

We have a system of direct taxes that mean that higher earners pay more tax.

Unfortunately, we have a pension system (and system of university fees) that mean that they get less back from the state in areas that were considered to be universal benefits. What next, NHS fees based on income?
Marcus Phokou

The reforms must reward good behaviour such that there is some point in saving for retirement
Ian T
It is unfair that someone who works hard, saves hard and struggles all his life to put aside a small pension should be no better off than someone who wasted all their money or never worked and was a drain on society throughout their 'working' life.

The reforms must reward good behaviour such that there is some point in saving for retirement. Pensioners' small pensions should not be taxed or offset.
Ian T

If everyone was given a decent basic pension the additional cost and social stigma of means-tested additional benefits could be removed along with winter fuel supplements and so on, as everyone should have the basic requirements covered.

It would then be down to the individual to try and save for the additional luxuries desired, such as holidays.

Removing the tax benefits on pension contributions, removing free TV licences, heating allowances and means-tested benefits and replacing them with a decent pension for all would be administratively more effective and possibly self-funding. Pensions should be paid on the basis of residency and not NI contributions. And married couples should be treated as single individuals not one and a half individuals for pension payment purposes.

For very many years women who were married had a choice of whether or not to pay a full NI stamp. By paying a "full" stamp instead of just a few pennies these women were saving towards their own pension. Why should these women now be on the same level as those who contributed virtually nothing?

Can those who contributed so much more now reclaim their payments, and at today's values please? The money paid in all those years ago was often a very large percentage of the wages earned by a woman.

I get the state pension plus a company pension and the highest rate of both aspects of Disability Living Allowance, so I am comfortably off.

The 105 pension seems a good idea. It seems ridiculous to spend so much time and money being fair in theory when it is fairer giving it to everyone. It will all be taxable anyway. It might be more logical and efficient to put a special tax on it, except for the outcry.
Jonathan Griffith

The basic state pension should be increased, otherwise there is no incentive to save for one's old age. Having a very small pension, one has to continually eat into one's savings to pay for essential costs, and luxuries are non-existent.
Mrs Marion Mitchell

It took months to get my basic state pension. I only got the 74 a week to which I am entitled (not 45) because I knew from the pensions forecast that this was my due amount. I pity those with neither the ability or will to struggle with the mess. Yes, everyone should get a basic, decent pension. The current criteria penalise women. I do not get a full pension because I paid a married woman's reduced fee for some years and was a student for many. But I have certainly paid my due in taxes and NI since.
J Rest

The Citizen's Pension is such a sensible, logical way of supporting pensioners
S Osmaston
The Citizen's Pension is such a sensible, logical way of supporting pensioners. I am just amazed that so many people are in favour. Brilliant. A pity we cannot get rid of housing and council tax Benefits too.
S Osmaston

I have a modest occupational pension. My wife does not. She is a housewife with no income. I am obliged to pay for all our prescriptions, dentist bills, eyes tests, council tax etc. Gordon Brown terminated the married man's allowance.

Finally, when I receive my state pension in real terms it will be reduced because I will have to pay the increase in tax due to my income being increased. Call that fair?
George Smith

Those who advocate the replacing of means-tested benefits with a higher basic state pension are failing to address the following facts.

It would widen the gap between richer and poorer pensioners, a gap which in the last few years has been narrowing due to the Minimum Income Guarantee and now Pension Credit.

In particular, millions of older women would be worse off.

Also, the reason such a high proportion of pensioners are entitled to Pension Credit is because the level at which it is set is, historically speaking, so generous.

The disincentive effect on savings of means-tested benefits cannot be ignored, but it is absurd to suppose that, for a 30-year-old say, the rules when he or she retires will be identical to what they are now.

This leads to a more general point, that the changes in state pension policy which occur every few years are largely due to unforeseen social changes, such as the explosion in longevity.

I believe the present system is broadly the correct one
Alan Pavelin
It is nonsense to suggest that a pension policy can be set in stone for all time, and inevitable that it will continue to be amended every few years in response to changing social conditions.

To conclude, whereas 50 years ago nearly all pensioners were relatively poor, today there are huge income variations which Pension Credit is beginning to address. I believe the present system is broadly the correct one, especially if the public is so reluctant to accept a higher retirement age.
Alan Pavelin

I draw a state pension but have other pensions to support me. As a divorced woman my husband's contribution enabled me to get a full pension in spite of my having paid a married woman's contribution.

Advise women of 59 who are not entitled to a full pension and with husbands under 65, to divorce, get their full pension and then remarry, silly but true.

You did not mention on the programme that people of 80 get an additional pension, of 25 pence a week! One lottery ticket a month! Just how much does that cost to administer?
Dr P A Last

Best programme I have heard on the subject for years. You should organise a nationwide petition for a change to a Citizen's Pension as soon as possible.
Paul Hutchinson

Well done Paul Lewis for an excellent special on the state pension. The case made for a Citizens Pension now of 105 a week was compelling. New Zealand's example shows us the way.

It is now up for grabs, whether it is Tony Blair or the opposition that owns this big idea, which is a vote winner
Paul Braithwaite
It is now up for grabs, whether it is Tony Blair or the opposition that owns this big idea, which is a vote winner.

Most of us "grey power" voters are sick of "Culpability Brown" stealing out of our back pockets, wrecking the performance of our pension funds and presiding over their winding-up.

I suspect the oft-quoted annual shortfall in savings of 27bn is now a woeful understatement as we have increasingly lost faith in the financial services industry.

Gordon Brown alone is responsible for the total undermining of our pensions and most of us are worried sick.

Four in 10 adults between ages 50 and 65 are not in gainful employment - mostly involuntarily - yet The Treasury flies the kite of needing to work until we are 70.

The government needs to get radical over a simple scheme for the future, matching savings pound for pound, introducing a liveable Citizens' Pension soon, and getting rid of all those civil servants who administer the means testing.

And it should seriously begin tackling ageism to put the amazing pool of talent, energy and experience back to work.

A great programme. I only hope politicians heard. There is still time, Mr Blair. Sack your chancellor and take control!
Paul Braithwaite

I have never quite understood why pensioners are so against means-testing. We are all subject to means-testing on our incomes all our working lives, declaring what we earn in order to establish how much tax we should pay.

Nevertheless, if pensioners do not want to be means-tested to assess what pension or pension credit they should get, and the government wants to give a top-up only to those who need it, the answer is actually very simple.

Collecting a bit more tax from some would cost no extra to do
Robin Petherbridge
Pay everyone a living pension, such as the 105 a week that you mentioned, and adjust the income tax in such a way that those who do not need the extra have it taken away again in tax.

Collecting a bit more tax from some would cost no extra to do, and the whole Pension Credit system would be redundant and could be done away with.
Robin Petherbridge

I am 69-years-old. I enjoy a state pension well in excess of the basic due to the payments I have made based on my salary when working.

The tone of your experts is that everyone would have only one level of pension in future.

It does not give me any comfort to think I would lose the benefit of my working hard all my life for 44 years, and then be denied my just due.

Should you not have made it plain that existing levels to those above the proposed state basic level will be maintained, certainly during the lifetime of the pensioner.
C W Stupples

The main problem with the state pension is that it does not generate a fat profit for private corporations.

The money is there to fund state pensions if private pensions were not subsidised by the Treasury (no income tax paid on contributions).

No country in Europe has our disastrous reliance on private pensions
Tony Brown
Yes the proportion of people working to retired age will continue to fall, but those who do work produce much more wealth as productivity increases.

No country in Europe has our disastrous reliance on private pensions, based as they are on unpredictable stock market fluctuations, and victim to criminal raids from employers or simple company bankruptcy.

Instead they have pay-as-you-go systems (like our state pensions), generously funded by employees at work and employers (who pay a much bigger share than UK companies do).

No problem finding billions for war of course.
Tony Brown

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

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