Lord Fowler (a former Secretary of State for Health and Social Security) tabled an amendment to the bill. Currently people with personal, defined contribution pensions must buy an annuity at the age of 75. (An annuity gives a pensioner an agreed level of annual income over a given period of time.)
Lord Fowler's amendment called for a suspension of that rule, in light of the state of the economy.
He explained that the wording of his amendment might have been inelegant, but that its purpose was straightforward - a suspension rather than an abolition of the annuities rule. (Lord Fowler is also in favour of abolition, however.) He added:
"The only half-argument that I have heard against such a change is that the rule affects only a small number of people. I do not regard that as an argument for inaction. Injustice is still injustice, however small the number affected."
The amendment failed, as Labour and Lib Dem peers opposed it. Lord Skelmersdale has issued the following statement:
"This was one of the most shameful Liberal votes in this Parliament. Even if you are in favour of other ideas, there was no case for voting against temporary, urgent help for these elderly people. Their spokesman Lord Oakeshott, was in a jealous huff because the amendment was not his. At a time of crisis, no responsible party would put personal pique and quotes in LibDem newssheets ahead of the interests of tens of thousands of worried families."
"Equally, the pigheaded attitude of the government in saying no to freedom of choice at the time of maximum need for older, prudent people, who have saved but see their savings vanishing before their eyes as a result of government policies, is disgraceful."
"All our amendment asked for was a temporary stay in this rule. To vote against that on a day the London market lost £30 billion demonstrates how utterly out of touch with the real world Labour and the increasingly ludicrous LibDems are."
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