Pensions minister Steve Webb tells Channel 4 News reforms announced on Monday, which will deny pensions to thousands who have “never set foot in this country”, are not a reaction to Ukip successes.
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Pensions minister Steve Webb said the decision to focus on the estimated 100,000 people receiving the spouse’s pensions overseas was to highlight “another good feature of the new system”, rather than as an attempt to outflank UKIP.
“What we have noticed is in Britain the number of people getting pensions based on a spouse has been falling,” said the Liberal Democrat MP, “but outside of the UK, the numbers we are paying are actually increasing.”
In an interview with Channel 4 News’s Jackie Long, Mr Webb said that the government had been working on the pension bill for several years. “The reason we are focusing on pensions outside the UK is that they are the ones that are growing.”
“At a time when money is tight we want to focus that money on people who put cash into the British system,” he added.
The changes, which would come into force in April 2016, are based on what an individual themselves put into the system, not their husband or wife’s contributions.
They will be introduced in the Queen’s speech, as part of a package designed to make the pension system fairer.
Mr Webb said it was designed to correct an “out-of-date” system where pensions are paid based on a spouse’s record.
He said that of more than 200,000 pensions paid outside the UK to people based on a spouse’s record, more than half have no National Insurance record at all.
“I think people would be astonished to know that you can get a pension for 20 or 25 years without ever contributing to the system because you are foreign.”
“If they have been contributing to the British system, they will get their own pension in their own right. The folk we are talking about don’t have their pensions in their own right.”