Page last updated at 18:30 GMT, Thursday, 8 December 2011

SNP and Plaid attack public sector pension plan

Nationalist MPs from Scotland and Wales have attacked the government's public sector pension plan, a week after the national strike in protest at the proposals.

The SNP and Plaid Cymru tabled a joint Commons motion condemning the government for threatening to cut devolved administration budgets if they do not accept the pension settlement.

The government wants public sector workers to pay more towards their pension schemes, retire later and accept a pension based on a "career average" salary, rather than the current arrangement based on their final salary.

On average, workers face paying an extra 3.2% of their salaries in pension contributions, which Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams described as not fair and a "carefully targeted" tax, as he opened the debate on 8 December 2011.

He argued that the changes were "primarily for the purpose of deficit reduction rather than to secure the long-term sustainability of public sector pay".

Scotland Office Minister David Mundell defended the "generous" plans, reminding MPs they had been drawn up by former Labour minister Lord Hutton.

He maintained that without reform spending on pensions would rise by nearly £7bn over the next five years.

Intervening in the minister's speech, SNP MP Mike Weir accused the chief secretary to the Treasury of threatening to fine the Scottish government "£8mn per month, £100mn per year, half a billion over the spending period" if it did not accept the settlement.

"How are the Scottish government supposed to pay for this twice, effectively?" he protested.

Shadow Scotland Office minister William Bain claimed the government would rather impose additional tax rises on "nurses, teachers and catering staff", than tax bankers' bonuses.

He said the chancellor's proposals in the Autumn Statement were motivated by a "reckless plan of spending reductions, made worse by his failure to grow the economy in the last year".

Conservative MP for Aberconwy Guto Bebb rejected the implication by opposition MPs that the coalition government "despises" the public sector.

"That is simply not the case. I refute that completely", he said, adding that he found the comments "very offensive".

He described the pension plan as a "reasonable proposal", arguing that the lowest paid would be protected.

But the SNP's Eilidh Whiteford claimed the settlement was nothing but a "tax grab", as she wound up the debate.

She acknowledged everyone "has to share the pain" but added that public sector workers did not want to "carry the can".

The SNP and Plaid motion was rejected by 242 votes to 11, majority 231.

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