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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    The shadow health secretary says the country needs to "rethink" the way we care for older people, who are often "trapped" on hospital beds and subject to "flying 15-minute visits" by social care workers on home visits. "We need to support people with dementia and autism as well as those with cancer," he says.

     
  79.  
    07:39: Andy Burnham on NHS BBC Radio 4 Today

    Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, tells BBC's Radio 4's Today programme the Labour Party is planning to "re-set" the NHS in England as the "National Health and Social Care Service".

     
  80.  
    07:25: David Cameron on election choice BBC Breakfast
    David Cameron

    David Cameron ends his Breakfast appearance by being asked about the lessons for the UK from what has happened in Greece. He says the election choice is "competence with the Conservatives", or "chaos with other options".

     
  81.  
    07:24: David Cameron on TV debates BBC Breakfast

    On the subject of TV election debates, Mr Cameron said it was a "good thing" that discussions had been taking place about which parties should be included. Asked if he would take part in the debates if Northern Ireland parties were included, he replied "yes", adding "a deal could be done".

     
  82.  
    07:21: David Cameron on apprenticeships BBC Breakfast

    David Cameron says apprenticeships are "very good" options for young people and the overwhelming majority of apprentices get jobs afterwards. The Conservatives are saying that they can create more using money saved by cutting the benefits cap limit.

     
  83.  
    07:16: David Cameron on benefits cap BBC Breakfast

    David Cameron tells BBC Breakfast that plans to reduce the benefits cap shows the Conservatives want to build on what he says is a successful policy of getting more people in to work - he says there was criticism in some parts of the country that £26,000 was too high. It's "absolutely crucial" to making sure young people get jobs and build a future for themselves, he says.

     
  84.  
    07:13: David Cameron on Breakfast
    David Cameron

    The Prime Minister David Cameron is appearing on BBC Breakfast from Downing Street.

     
  85.  
    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

    tweets: Significance of today is not that it's 100 days until an election. It's Holocaust Memorial Day - when we pledge 'Never Again' @HolocaustUK

     
  86.  
    06:59: Party campaigns Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The Tories are going on about the economy, there is a big push from Labour on the NHS today - I can see this going on right up to polling day. We've seen that the NHS is the number one issue for voters, but it has not yet translated to a lift off for Labour, despite the NHS winter crisis - which suggests the strategy appeals to the traditional Labour vote, but doesn't reach out beyond that.

     
  87.  
    06:57: The morning papers

    Meanwhile the Daily Mirror reports a survey which suggests a third of voters haven't made up their minds about how to vote yet.

    Mirror front page
     
  88.  
    06:53: The morning papers

    A bit more on how the 100 days to go point is being marked in the papers. With David Cameron and Ed Miliband appearing face-to-face on its front page, the i asks "where are the parties, what are the hot issues?". It also carries a poll suggesting the Tories have taken the lead over Labour.

    I front page
     
  89.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: David Cameron is on @bbcbreakfast at 0710 and @BBCR4Today at 0810. Ed Miliband is on @bbc5live at 0750 and @bbcbreakfast at 0810.

     
  90.  
    06:42: Breakfast briefing
    Chris Mason on Breakfast

    The two main parties "will be playing their hits today - what they think works with voters", BBC political correspondent Chris Mason tells BBC Breakfast. So Labour's focus is on the NHS and integrating social care. The Conservatives are talking about the economy and the benefits cap - they want to lower the cap and use the money to create more apprenticeships. The Lib Dems and UKIP are both focusing on what impact they might have in partnership with larger parties.

     
  91.  
    06:35: The morning papers

    The Daily Telegraph has an interview with David Cameron in which the prime minister pledges to reduce the annual benefits cap to £23,000 as the first act of a new Conservative government - a theme that also features in the Daily Mail.

    Telegraph front page
     
  92.  
    06:29: The morning papers

    Most of the papers mark the 100 days to go, with the Sun featuring the faces of readers on its front page and setting out its "Sunifesto" in a special edition, saying there are "100 days to save Britain".

    Sun front page
     
  93.  
    06:27: The morning ahead Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    It's an early start for the party leaders with David Cameron and Ed Miliband both appearing on BBC Breakfast and BBC radio between 07:10 GMT and 08:30 GMT. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are also launching an election poster. The economy will take centre stage at 09:30 GMT when the GDP figures are out.

     
  94.  
    06:21: Good morning Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Hello and welcome to a fresh day's coverage of political developments ahead of the 7 May General Election - yes there's just 100 days to go now. You'll be able to listen or watch all the BBC's political output today on this page and we'll be bringing you all the best clips, quotes, analysis, reaction and breaking political news throughout the day. If you want to see what to expect, here's yesterday's campaign countdown.

     

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