Minister fuels pension debate with Lamborghini comment

 

Pensions minister Steve Webb tells Norman Smith: "If people do buy a Lamborghini but know that they'll end up just living on the state pension, that becomes their choice"

The government has defended a minister who said pensioners would be free to spend their savings on a Lamborghini following a rule change in the Budget.

From 2015, people reaching retirement age will be able to use pension pots however they want, rather than having to buy a guaranteed annual income.

Pensions minister Steve Webb said it was people's "choice" whether to buy Italian Lamborghini sports cars.

No 10 said people were free to spend money in their own way.

Chancellor George Osborne has dismissed fears newly retired people could "blow" their pension pot.

Mr Webb, a Liberal Democrat, told the BBC's Norman Smith he was "relaxed" about how people spent their money.

He said: "If people do get a Lamborghini, and end up on the state pension, the state is much less concerned about that, and that is their choice."

George Osborne: "At the heart of the Budget is a long term economic plan"

The Lamborghini Huracan, unveiled earlier this month at the International Motor Show in Geneva, is to be sold at about £165,000.

A Downing Street spokesman backed Mr Webb, saying it was not up to the government to give advice on how people chose to manage their savings.

He added that under the rule changes pensioners were guaranteed independent advice before making any decision about their pension provision.

'Treated as adults'

Mr Webb later told BBC's Newsnight that the average pension pot was £25,000 so "not many people will be buying sports cars".

"It is people's own money," he said. "We are not going to cast them adrift. We will guarantee them guidance, information, education but ultimately we are making sure they have a decent state pension but if they want to spend their money sooner rather than later, we are treating people as adults."

Personal finance experts said the proposed changes to annuities - bonds which provide a fixed income for the rest of the owner's life - would significantly change the way people fund their retirement.

Ed Balls says he worries "choice and flexibility" could end up being "reckless and irresponsible"

It is expected that anyone over the age of 55 who belongs to a private pension scheme (as opposed to a final-salary scheme) will be able to take out their savings as a lump sum to spend or invest as they wish.

Mr Osborne dismissed concerns that retired people would spend all their pension at once and end up relying on the state.

"It's all part of a coherent pension reform," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"So we have a more generous basic state pension, less means-testing and that enables us to get rid of a quite old fashioned set of government requirements, put in place many decades ago, that people had to take out annuities.

"While annuities might be right for many people, they are not right for many, and returns from annuities have been much lower over the last 15 years or so.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the new pension rules could mean more money for the Treasury if people opted to extract taxable lump sums from their pension pots.

But, the think tank added, it was difficult to predict how people would behave and the government could be left short of money for tax cuts announced on Wednesday.

Labour's shadow chancellor Ed Balls said he supported the "principle" of more flexibility over pensions, because the annuities market is "not working" and "people are being ripped off".

'Beer and bingo'

But he said scrapping the requirement to take out an annuity altogether was a potentially "reckless and irresponsible" move, which could "leave people running out of money".

"Will people with ordinary-sized pension pots be able and encouraged to withdraw all of their pension savings from their pension pot and either try and invest it themselves or spend it?" he asked.

"And if they do, what happens when the money runs out? Who then picks up the tab?"

Pensions changes were among a series of measures announced in a Budget that Mr Osborne said would reward the "makers, doers and savers".

However, hours after he outlined his plans, the Conservatives faced a backlash over an advert highlighting changes to beer and bingo taxes.

The online advert, tweeted by Conservative chairman Grant Shapps, said the cuts would "help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy".

Danny Alexander: "I thought it was a spoof at first - it's pretty extraordinary"

It was described as "patronising" by Mr Osborne's deputy, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, who said he initially thought it was a "spoof".

Labour said it was "ill-conceived" and "condescending".

But Mr Osborne said the controversy had been "whipped up by the Labour Party who didn't have anything else to say about the economy".

Conservative sources told BBC News they were "completely relaxed" about the tweet and "astonished" by the row, adding it would not be "pulled" because it was a "one-off" message and not part of any campaign.

 

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  • rate this
    -313

    Comment number 141.

    Pensions, the biggest drain the UK economy has, pay them at the same rate as unemployment benefit and save the UK.

  • rate this
    -301

    Comment number 117.

    I am so annoyed that the elderly are exempt from everything. Now they are getting more help it's ridiculous. You go out and see pensioners lunches and pensioners haircuts at reduced prices. What makes them so superior to everyone else? Now you will see more of them playing bingo with their pensions and wasting their money .

  • rate this
    -251

    Comment number 50.

    A big risk.

    Their spend needs to be monitored. This money should only be used for essentials like food and energy not Luxary items like holidays.

    I can see them spending it on rubbish, leaving us to bail them out further down the line. A worry

  • rate this
    +286

    Comment number 33.

    This makes total sense. The losers here are the insurance companies who were making a fortune out of pensioners.

  • rate this
    +206

    Comment number 23.

    Since Mr Balls contributed so readily and in such a 'reckless and irresponsible' manner when laying waste to our economy under Blair and Brown, I think I would rather trust my own judgement than his as to how I choose to invest my pension pot.

 

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  67.  
    13:21: Farage on deals

    UKIP is not going to win the election, but will win a "number of MPs". He suggests the party might be in the same position the Lib Dems were in 2010 and says he'll get a much better deal for his party. Asked if he wants to be deputy prime minister, Mr Farage says on Loose Women it's not what he wants to do.

     
  68.  
    13:20: 'Radically change' politics

    Nigel Farage says his life has been "pretty up and down" since he went to school. He says he wants to "radically change" politics - the gap between the wealthy and the rest is getting bigger every year and he wants to address that.

     
  69.  
    13:19: Pic: Farage on Loose Women
    Nigel Farage

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage has just been asked, tongue-in-cheek, on ITV's Loose Women about his "self esteem issues". That got the biggest laugh from the studio audience so far.

     
  70.  
    13:16: Farage on immigration

    Nigel Farage says he wants to ask David Cameron about immigration and how the Conservative leader thinks it can be controlled without leaving the EU at the TV debates. He tells the ITV programme he wants an end to "unskilled" workers coming to the UK.

     
  71.  
    13:14: Farage on debates

    On Loose Women, Nigel Farage says he believes David Cameron is trying to sabotage the TV debate process.

     
  72.  
    13:04: Farage on Loose Women

    Nigel Farage is on Loose Women on ITV soon. At the moment, they're showing him outside having a cigarette and a coffee. The UKIP leader has already tweeted to say he is more nervous than normal.

     
  73.  
    12:59: Grant Shapps on debates Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The interview with Tory chairman Grant Shapps on the TV debates is up on our website now. You can watch it here.

     
  74.  
    12:53: Cameron's 'shrewd politics' The Daily Telegraph

    Over on The Daily Telegraph, Rupert Myers has also been analysing the TV debates fall-out. He says David Cameron's decision to only agree to one debate is "shrewd politics". He writes: "Right now, perhaps the greatest electoral asset the Conservatives have is the gulf of public respect and confidence which exists between Cameron and Miliband. A series of TV debates would imperil that advantage."

     
  75.  
    12:49: Broadcasters have 'messed up' The Spectator

    David Cameron's communications director Craig Oliver criticised the broadcasters "deeply unsatisfactory process" for organising the pre-election TV debates in his letter last night. Today, Isabel Hardman has written a piece for The Spectator saying he has a point. She writes: "Though the prime minister is ducking out of them for the selfish reasons outlined here, the blame must ultimately lie with the broadcasters for making it possible for him to do so. They have managed to mess up at every stage of the process."

     
  76.  
    @Nigel_Farage Nigel Farage, UKIP leader

    tweets: I'm about to go on @loosewomen. Slightly more nervous about this panel than I usually am!

     
  77.  
    @BBCWorldatOne World at One

    tweets: Is the PM "running scared" or "unblocking the logjam"? We'll talk TV debates with @grantshapps & @LucyMPowell #wato

     
  78.  
    12:37: Campaigning and babies
    David Cameron

    David Cameron was speaking just now about TV debates during a visit to promote housebuilding policies. It was also a first for Politics Live - the first chance to use a fresh pic of a politician cooing over a baby. We're pretty sure there'll be plenty more to come over the weeks ahead.

     
  79.  
    12:35: Paul Flynn on 'worst ever' PMQs Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Daily politics

    Labour MP Paul Flynn said yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions was "the worst ever" and suggested scrapping the weekly session. He tells Daily Politics there is nothing new about prime ministers not answering questions, but says there is often no connection between the question and the answer now. It drags politics into "further disrepute", Mr Flynn says. He doesn't believed the session can now be reformed and wants a whole new system. Andrew Percy says it's a "pretty unedifying" spectacle but that it serves a purpose, particularly for constituency issues.

     
  80.  
    12:32: Lord Adonis on Scotland

    The Daily Politics is now discussing Labour in Scotland and recent polls suggesting the party could lose most of its seats. Lord Adonis says there is a long way to go in the campaign, telling the programme it is clear that opinion in Scotland is "volatile". Jim Murphy is doing a great job of re-energising the party, he adds. He won't be drawn on whether Labour should rule out of a deal with the SNP before the election.

     
  81.  
    12:31: Polly Toynbee on debates The Guardian

    If Miliband is so weak, why is Cameron so afraid of debating with him? That's the question Polly Toynbee is asking over on the Guardian site today. You can read her thoughts here.

     
  82.  
    @loosewomen Loose Women

    tweets: On today's show: @UKIP leader @Nigel_Farage takes on our women, plus comedian @RealMattLucas will be joining us too! #Elections2015

     
  83.  
    12:20: 'Host debates anyway' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Finally on TV debates on Daily Politics, Labour peer Lord Adonis says the broadcasters should go ahead regardless of David Cameron's views. He suggests the prime minister will be forced to take part if that happens.

     
  84.  
    12:19: 'Workable plan' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The prime minister's debate plan is "completely workable", says Grant Shapps. Labour peer Lord Adonis says most members of the public think the 2010 debates changed things in terms of TV debates becoming a fixture of UK elections. "To turn the clock back" was a "disservice" to the public, he adds.

     
  85.  
    12:19: Shapps on debates Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    We've run out of time, Grant Shapps says, to hold the debates as planned by the broadcasters. Let's get the parties in and have a debate just before the election campaign proper, he adds. And he denies the claim his party wanted to avoid the debates at all costs.

     
  86.  
    12:17: Cameron on debates
    David Cameron

    If the debates are held during the campaign people won't talk about anything else - such as the issues that matter, Mr Cameron says. He adds that he has said for the past three years that the debates should take place before the campaign proper begins.

     
  87.  
    12:14: Breaking News

    David Cameron says he wants there to be a TV debate. He says that rather than trying to avoid a debate, he is trying to "unblock the logjam" that the "broadcasters helped to create", so "let's get on, let's have the debate that matters the most". By putting this proposal forward, he says, "we'll actually see one take place".

     
  88.  
    12:11: Shapps on debates Daily Politics Live on BBC Two
    Grant Shapps

    Grant Shapps says the approach to debates has been messy. The debates at the last election sucked the life out of the campaign, he adds. There is still no clear sense of what broadcasters want, the Tory chairman adds.

     
  89.  
    12:09: 'Chaos and confusion' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, says there has been "chaos and confusion" over TV debates. He says "lots of people" haven't accepted the proposals.

     
  90.  
    12:05: Ed Miliband on Scotland

    During his earlier interview Mr Miliband was also asked about Scotland and polling which shows his party could lose a number of previously safe seats. The Labour leader said "the fight is on" in Scotland. He added: "I hope people who want to see the back of the Conservatives in Scotland will vote Labour."

     
  91.  
    12:04: Scottish FMQs

    In Scotland, First Minister's questions is under way. Follow it here.

     
  92.  
    11:53: Miliband: Cameron 'running away'
    Ed Miliband

    A bit more from Ed Miliband. He says it is "clear David Cameron is ducking the [head-to-head] debate". He adds: "He should stop ducking and weaving and name the date".

    Mr Miliband says he will take part in the seven leader debate, but continues: "We also need the debate between me and David Cameron". He says he is open to debate the prime minister at any time, in any place. And he adds that the public will no tolerate Mr Cameron "running away".

    On the possibility of a one-on-one debate with Nick Clegg, as suggested by Lord Ashdown, Mr Miliband says it is up to broadcasters.

     
  93.  
    11:47: Breaking News

    Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of "cowering from the public" over the TV debates. The Labour leader says the British public "deserves" the debate. Mr Miliband says he is ready to debate "any time, any place, anywhere - he should stop ducking and weaving".

     
  94.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor

    tweets: Ed Miliband accuses PM of "cowering from the public" over #tvdebates

     
  95.  
    Get involved 11:39: Politics Live readers on the TV debates

    Some more comments from Politics Live readers on the TV debates

    No meaningful mass media debate between the main party leaders? Just another example of politicians' disrespect for the population at large. They all think that the ONLY moment of accountability is at the ballot box and violently object to any other forum (unless it`s in their own particular interest).

    John Hyland

    Am I the only one who would be thankful if no debates took place at all? Televised Punch and Judy Politics can be seen every day on the news and in particular at Wednesday's Prime Ministers Questions. This is not informative nor even remotely entertaining.

    David Parker

    The problem is, the Conservative party have backed themselves into a corner. They have been banging on for the last few years how weak a candidate Ed Miliband has been and it's come back to haunt them.

    Expectations of Ed are so low, even an even debate would be a landslide victory for the Labour Party. From the Conservative point of view, it doesn't really make sense to give Labour the platform, where the best they could do is break even.

    Nicholas Williams

    It seems unlikely that any of the party leaders will win a majority in May. They are going to have to work together for the common good of an electorate tired of their silly and destructive adversarial politics.

    Let's make a reality TV show instead. It might be interesting if all the party leaders were shut in a plush stately home with plenty of TV cameras and given a task or do - agree a plan to build an environmentally sustainable economy in the UK would be a good one. There are many more tasks like that to be tackled.

    It would be tempting to make them stay in there until they agreed. In the real world we all need politicians to work together for the common good - something else they would have to agree on.

    It might even make good television. It is what Parliament needs to become after 7 May.

    Simon Court

     
  96.  
    @daily_politics BBC Daily Politics

    tweets: 'Britain now gives away an eye-watering £12bn a year' in foreign aid, says @StanburySteven in his film for Thu #bbcdp

     
  97.  
    11:37: TV debates: Lessons from history Brian Wheeler Political reporter
    John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960

    Nothing gets TV executives salivating - and political leaders quaking - like a live televised debate. Beneath the glare of the studio lights, a politician is at his most exposed. One stumble, a flash of anger, an inappropriate joke, a memory lapse or just a failure to bring your "A Game", and the whole shooting match can be over. The fate of nations sometimes hang in the balance. But the lessons are still there to be learned....

     
  98.  
    11:33: Where do we stand on the TV debates?

    Here's what the main players are saying:

    • David Cameron will only take part in one debate, his communications chief Craig Oliver has said. That debate must feature at least seven leaders and must be held this month. Mr Craig also criticised the "deeply unsatisfactory process" of organising the debates
    • Labour aren't happy. Alastair Campbell has accused Mr Cameron of making "pathetic excuses" to avoid the debates, which he says the prime minister is scared of losing
    • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has offered to take Mr Cameron's place in the one-on-one debates. He says he would be happy to defend the government's record
    • But Lucy Powell, vice chair of Labour's election campaign, says the head-to-head should be between those who could be prime minister after 7 May
    • SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon says the prime minister is "clearly running scared of having to answer for his government's record of failure and incompetence"
    • A UKIP spokesman says Mr Cameron is "acting chicken"
    • Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says Mr Cameron's behaviour is "unacceptable and arrogant"
    • The Democratic Unionist Party says broadcaster have made a "complete and utter mess" of plans to hold the debates
    • Publically, the broadcasters have said very little. But privately, they seem determined not to buckle, says our assistant political editor Norman Smith
     
  99.  
    11:27: No 10's briefing for political reporters Ben Wright Political correspondent, BBC News

    On TV debates the PM's spokesman referred all questions back to Director of Communications Craig Oliver's letter of last night. Asked if David Cameron was running scared the spokesman said "that is not a premise I would accept".

     
  100.  
    11:23: Shapps on Daily Politics Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn are joined by former Labour minister Andrew Adonis as guest of the day. Conservative chairman Grant Shapps will be talking TV debates. MPs Paul Flynn and Andrew Percy will debate whether PMQs should be abolished, while a film from Giles Dilnot looks at civilian use of drones after a parliamentary report on the issue. And they will be looking at party names after the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party was told by the Electoral Commission that its moniker was "describing women as a sexual object in a demeaning way and would cause offence if it were to appear on ballot paper". You can watch the programme live from 1200-1300, or later, on the Live Coverage tab on this page (if you're reading this on the BBC app, to watch the it live you have to click here and open the page in a browser)

     

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