Page last updated at 13:05 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 14:05 UK

Tories plan rise in pension age

George Osborne: "Our aim will be to bring forward the date when the pension age rises"

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne has outlined plans to raise the state pension age for men to 66 from 2016, up to 10 years earlier than planned.

He said the move was needed to help reduce the UK's debts, saying "hard choices could not be avoided" because of the dire state of public finances.

The pension age for women will rise to 65 by 2020 under Tory proposals.

Mr Osborne unveiled a package of money-saving measures, including a one-year public sector pay freeze.

'Sea of debt'

He told the party's conference that tough measures were needed after 12 years of "feckless irresponsibility" under Labour which had left Britain "sinking in a sea of debt".

Raising the state pension age for men, currently 65, from 2016 would enable the UK to afford an across-the-board increase in the basic state pension for everyone, he said, by restoring the link between pensions and earnings.

Under the government's existing plans, the state pension age for men will rise gradually from 65 to 68 between 2024 to 2046. For women it will gradually rise from 60 to 65 over ten years from 2010.

But the Conservatives say this is not "ambitious enough" given rising life expectancy and the scale of the UK's debts.

No-one who's a pensioner today, or approaching retirement soon, will be affected
George Osborne

Mr Osborne told the Conservative Party conference both men and women's state pension ages were due to rise over the next decade but "most experts" - including the author of the recommendation Lord Turner - believed now that was "too far off".

"We will hold the review which the Turner Report itself proposed and which the government has never held," he said.

"Our aim will be to bring forward the date when the pension age rises. This is already happening in Germany, in Holland and in Australia. We will ensure that no increase will happen until the second half of the next decade, in the parliament after next."

'Big issues'

He said men's state pension age would not start to rise to 66 until at the earliest 2016 while women would not see their state retirement age rise from 65 to 66 until "at least" 2020.

"No-one who's a pensioner today, or approaching retirement soon, will be affected. But this is how we can afford increasing the basic state pension for all," he said.

hic showing the number of pensioners in the UK

Bringing the move forward would mean many more people than previously expected, particularly those aged between 49 and 59, having to work a year longer before qualifying for a state pension.

The Conservatives say the rise in the pension age will save £13bn a year but ministers have criticised the move as "deeply unfair".

Earlier, Tory leader David Cameron said the pension plans were underpinned by "a genuine desire" to ensure pensioners were not "left behind" and were able to retire with "security and dignity".

He acknowledged that the decision could prove unpopular with some but said he wanted his party to "face up to the big issues" and be upfront about dealing with the public finances .

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said the Tories had clarified that the earliest date at which all women would have to work until the age of 66 before receiving their state pension was 2022.

'Massive uncertainty'

Mr Cameron told the BBC it was "out of the question" that women would suddenly see their state pension age rise from 63 to 66 in 2016.

Graph showing the ageing UK population

But Labour said that the plans were "deeply unfair" and would create huge uncertainty, particularly for women.

"This is an appalling way to treat older people," said Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper.

"You can't just tell people in their late fifties to rip up their retirement plans because they have to work up to three years longer.

She added: "They want to hit low paid workers in their late fifties, but they're still backing tax cuts on millionaires' estates. This shows how out of touch David Cameron and George Osborne are."

For the Liberal Democrats, Steve Webb said the plans would create "massive uncertainty for millions of people".

He said: "Women have been a total afterthought to this announcement. It is simply impossible for the Tories to save £13bn a year by raising the state pension age for men alone.

"George Osborne's plans would require the pension age for women to increase each year until 2016. The Tories must come clean or risk leaving every woman in the country in a pensions limbo."

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