The Daily Telegraph

Edi­to­rial Com­ment:

- Richard Lloyd

From to­day, the state pen­sion age is 66 for both men and women. When it was in­tro­duced by Lloyd Ge­orge in 1909, the state pen­sion of­fered an ini­tial pay­ment of five shillings (7s 6d for a mar­ried man) to all re­tired work­ers over 70 whose an­nual means were be­low £31 10s. Very few reached that age and did not live long if they did. So the scheme was just about af­ford­able, though it was al­ways as­sumed that it would be sup­ple­mented by sav­ings. Grad­u­ally the age was low­ered to 65 for men and then to 60 for women.

Plans to equalise the age were first an­nounced in 1995 but are only fully tak­ing ef­fect now, such is the power of the is­sue to trig­ger po­lit­i­cal ruc­tions. In­deed, state pen­sion and re­tire­ment dates have been fought over for decades, even as it has be­come in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent that the sys­tem is no longer af­ford­able. Nowa­days, some 12 mil­lion peo­ple are aged 65 and over. Av­er­age life ex­pectancy at re­tire­ment is 20 years. The rea­son why the pen­sion age has been in­creased – it will go up again to 67 by 2028 – is the cost and its bur­den on work­ing-age tax­pay­ers.

No one pre­tends, any more than they did in 1909, that the state pen­sion is suf­fi­cient to live on, es­pe­cially if care is needed, and yet suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have tried to give that im­pres­sion with in­creases such as the “triple lock”. How long can that last? Rishi Su­nak, the Chan­cel­lor, re­port­edly wants to axe the guar­an­tee, to get the pub­lic fi­nances back on an even keel. As he told the vir­tual Tory con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, he con­sid­ered it a sa­cred re­spon­si­bil­ity to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to bal­ance the books. But it is also a po­lit­i­cal hot potato and the Con­ser­va­tives promised to keep it. So it seems safe, for now at least.

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