We revealed this morning that Iain Duncan Smith is less steadfast than he might appear on when the controversial changes to women’s state pension might take effect. Under current plans in the government’s pensions bill, it will gradually rise to 65 by 2018 and 66 in 2020.
The bill is back in the Commons today, where the work and pensions secretary will say:
We’re heading towards an unprecedented burden being placed on the next generation who will have to pay for their parent’s retirement on top of paying for the national debt. It’s not fair. This bill will address the realities of our increasing longevity by sharing the costs between the generations.
We will stand by the 2018 and 2020 timetable.
But behind the scenes, officials are working on possible compromises to placate the Lib Dems and many members of the Lords, who have expressed their concern about the effect of the rise, especially on a group of nearly half a million women in their fifties who planned to collect their pensions sooner.
They might be willing to change the plans entirely, except for the cost it would incur. DWP calculations suggest not following the timetable could cost £30bn by 2025/26, money the Treasury is not likely to hand over without a fight.
But even if the plans are delayed by six months, this may not be enough to keep the Tories’ coalition partners onside. Many Lib Dem backbenchers have made a big deal recently of opposing the government on this issue, and are hoping for a more decisive victory, not least to keep party morale high after the NHS U-turn.
But if turns into a fight between Lib Dem backbenchers and the Treasury, I know who my money is on.