Damian Green says debate is 'pitting pensioner against young person'


Cabinet meeting

Young people should not try to impoverish pensioners, a Government Minister has warned.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said it is "ridiculous" to try to set generations against each other.

Mr Green told an Age UK conference: "Much of the recent debate has descended into pitting pensioner against young person, putting them on a collision course, creating a fault line between young people and pensioners.

"This is ridiculous. Young people will become old themselves. Today's young workers will become tomorrow's pensioners. So, ultimately, you don't help young people by impoverishing older people. It is not a zero-sum game.

"A clearer state pension for the future is just one part of the solution. As we confront the challenges that people living longer bring, the real prize will be positioning the state pension as a clear and firm foundation upon which the vast majority build up a private pension."

Mr Green said that saving for a pension from an early working age was now the "new normal".

"People say young people won't save or can't save. What we are seeing is that's not the case. We are seeing a new trend for saving. Saving for later life in your 20s is becoming the new normal."

The Minister said that pensioner poverty has fallen dramatically in recent decades.

"We've seen huge progress in protecting and supporting pensioners over the last few decades. Under successive governments, we've seen the percentage of pensioners living in poverty fall dramatically. In the 1970s, 40% were in poverty. Today, that figure is 14%. That is a hugely progressive achievement, which isn't recognised enough.

"We've seen big rises in the living standards of pensioners. But we must remember that not all pensioners are in the same position. Over a million current pensioners rely solely on the state for their income."