A jubilant taxpayer approaches Sir Rodrick Whitehall after hearing that Gordon Brown has abandoned plans to increase the public contribution to the MPs’ pension pot.
Tim Taxpayer: Hoorah! At last. They’ve seen sense. Even venal MPs realise the public wouldn’t accept stumping up more cash to feather the Westminster pension scheme. We’re making progress!
Sir Roderick Whitehall: I’m pleased you think so.
TT: So how much will this save?
RW: Well. It depends what you mean by “save”.
TT: Do we put in less money into the MPs’ pension pot?
RW: The contribution will be capped.
TT: So now the MPs will have to either contribute more from their salaries or make the scheme less generous. I can already hear the pips squeaking! If they don’t do that the scheme’s deficit would balloon and they’d be unable to fund those lavish retirement benefits. Poor MPs. Isn’t life hard.
RW: Indeed. But this is awfully complex. MPs have said they will look at ways of making up for the cap in the taxpayer contribution. But of course it will take some time to decide how to proceed.
TT: Well, that’s fine by me. It’s their scheme. They can gamble with their futures and starve the pension pot if they want to. Frankly I hope scheme collapses under the weight of their greed.
RW: Ah, well, that would be impossible of course.
TT: What do you mean?
RW: The scheme is guaranteed.
RW: Yes the scheme is guaranteed by the taxpayer. Even if it had no money left in the pot and a deficit the size of…well, a significant overexposure, retired MPs would still be paid from public funds.
TT: So what difference does reducing the taxpayer contribution make?
RW: That is a good question. I like to see it as a sign of intent. And, of course, the MPs would have had a dashed difficult vote today if they had kept the same motion.
TT: Hang on a minute. You mean they expect me to be pleased by the “sacrifice” of not making us pay more money into their scheme? It means nothing! We’re still on the hook for the whole lot.
RW: No need to be so cynical about it. This way is far less painful.