Iain Duncan Smith has condemned Labour for dragging him to the House of Commons to face claims young people will have to “work until they drop” before retiring.
The Work and Pensions Secretary accused the Opposition of “utter idiocy” and “worrying and scaring people” after he was forced to answer questions over a review of the state pension age announced on Tuesday.
The Tory Cabinet minister said the prospect of increasing the threshold “was always known about” and Labour only called him to the Commons as “a couple of newspapers wrote a few articles”. However, he did not rule out the state pension age accelerating.
Labour insists ministers have failed to ease fears, and point to a tweet from Pensions Minister, Ros Altmann, which states the "state pension age isn't a retirement age" as evidence people on modest incomes "could have to work until they drop".
Iain Duncan Smith: “To start worrying and scaring people, without foundation and reality, is nothing short of appalling."
The Department for Work and Pensions yesterday revealed in a five paragraph written ministerial statement to Parliament that former CBI director general John Cridland will lead a review to “help ensure the state pension remains sustainable for generations to come”.
With people living longer, retirement age has been gradually shifted from the decades-old 60 for women and 65 for many against fears it will be unaffordable.
Downing Street’s daily briefing with journalists on Tuesday failed to mention the announcement among 20 statements, and Labour accused the Government of “smuggling out” an announcement affecting millions of people - a claim flatly denied by the Department for Work and Pensions.
As it stands, the state pension age for men and women will rise to 66 by 2020, to 67 as early as 2026, 68 in the mid-2030s, and then 69 in the late-2040s.
But newspapers and websites spoke to a series of financial experts who warned the state pensions age is certain to increase into the 70s. Ex-Pensions Minister Steve Webb even said young people face working until they are 81 before they can afford to retire.
Labour was today granted an Urgent Question (UQ) on the review by Commons Speaker John Bercow, which requires ministers to face a grilling from MPs.
But Mr Duncan Smith made clear his contempt for Labour’s justification, suggesting the Opposition was "scaremongering" since all MPs were aware of legislation from 2013 that meant there would be a review every five years.
And he hit out at a tweet by Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith, which tore into Ms Altman, for being “inflammatory”.
The Labour Tweet the minster said was 'inflammatory', and what Owen Smith was responding to
“To start worrying and scaring people, without foundation and reality, is nothing short of appalling,” Mr Duncan Smith told MPs.
The only limit on the review is that the timetable up to April 2028 will not be affected, meaning anyone in their mid-50s and younger could be affected.
Mr Duncan Smith said: “This was always known about, this review. For those who complain suddenly that they hadn’t noticed about, this statement was down yesterday.
“I don’t recall they did a single thing to raise it to anyone’s attention until a couple of newspapers wrote a few articles, then they suddenly put in a UQ.”
And he quoted former Labour Shadow Pensions Minister, Gregg MccLymont, who said “we do not oppose this Bill” when legislation committing the Government to a regular independent review was passed by Parliament.
Labour's Owen Smith: "You’ll only be able to retire if you’re rich enough or you’ve got a fat private pension, otherwise you will have to keep working."
But Labour argues the review will could link the link between life expectancy and the pension age, undermining the previous consensus.
Labour’s Mr Smith claimed “people traveling to work would have been shocked” to learn of the review as it signalled going ”further and faster than the people of Britain were expecting”.
He said: “You’ll only be able to retire if you’re rich enough or you’ve got a fat private pension, otherwise you will have to keep working - ‘working until you drop’ as one pensions professor warned this morning.”
Mr Smith went on to ask what the new pension age would be: “Is it 75, 76, 77, is it 80 as his former colleague, the pensions minister, warned today?”
But Mr Duncan Smith said the “rather pathetic response” was a reflection that Labour didn’t think the question would be granted. “He’s been scribbling away massively only hearing he was granted it. Because it was utter idiocy,” he said.
He went on to say Labour was “utterly irresponsible and pointless”, and that the shadow minister “gives a bad reputation to shallow people”.