Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Maude: 'No regrets' over pension talks tactics

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has said he has "no regrets" about the government's negotiating tactics on public sector pensions, telling MPs there will be announcements on the resolution to the dispute before the Christmas recess.

Mr Maude was speaking during questions to his department on 14 December 2011, after he was pressed about the progress of talks with unions and when the dispute would be ended.

Labour's Diana Johnson had asked the minister: "Do you have any regrets about the way you have conducted negotiations with the public sector trade unions, by using megaphone diplomacy through the media and not providing information in a timely way?"

Mr Maude replied: "I have no regrets at all. We have engaged in very intensive discussions over a long period with the leadership of the TUC, with the individual schemes with the unions and I would just remind you that if you think we are not negotiating, just talk to the TUC about the intensiveness of the negotiations."

Mr Maude reminded MPs that Lord Hutton - Labour's former work and pensions secretary who led the review of public sector pensions - had praised the government's offer as "generous", adding that unions should "stop holding a gun to the taxpayers' head".

Union members held a nationwide strike on 30 November in protest at the proposed changes to public sector pensions.

Mr Maude confirmed that 146,250 civil service workers walked out, which he said was about 30% of the workforce.

The government wants most public sector workers to work for longer, pay more into their pensions and accept a pension based on a "career average" salary, rather than the final salary scheme.

Earlier on, Labour MP John McDonnell asked Mr Maude to confirm whether the pensions settlement would be "imposed" on the unions if agreement had not been reached by Christmas.

Mr Maude told him: "We very much hope that it won't be necessary for the government to move to the stage of imposition.

"Our intention is that we should reach agreement. It is necessary that we reach agreement by the end of the year because there is a lot of work to do to bring the new schemes into place as early as possible so that people know what their future holds and we can implement the new scheme."

He added: "We will be making further announcements to the House before the House rises [on 20 December]."

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