Bravo for Bill Crabb! I was beginning to think that I was the only person stunned by Gordon Brown’s actions against private sector pension funds in his first budget in 1997.
The other thing that amazed me at the time was the complete silence from unions and with one exception (Frank Field) Labour MPs. The very people who are always trumpeting that they “stand up for the working man”.
Unison and other unions who are now screaming like stuck pigs about proposed changes to public sector pensions seemed to forget that they had thousands of members in the former public sector industries such as water, gas, electricity, telephone etc which were denationalised by Margaret Thatcher. This despite the power they have over the Labour Party - the unions pay the bills - did not flex their muscles to try to protect their members’ interests.
Frank Field at least had the courage to raise the matter with Blair only to be told “that was not how Gordon explained it to me.” The wimp that was Blair did not have the courage of his MP to force Brown to reconsider.
It was estimated at the time that the annual tax refund was worth £5Billion to the pension fund trustees. That comes to a total of around £70 billion over the period of fourteen years since the relief was removed. While because of the changes in the world’s financial situation final salary pensions are history. If the pension funds had received that £70Billion the black funding hole in most pesnions funds would be considerably smaller and the new pensions employers are now offering would have been substantially better. In fact the refunds would have increased each year since 1997 as the pension fund trustees invest the annual subscriptions to the pension funds thereby raising the investment income and, prior to 1997, increase the tax rebate.
I know that if I was a member of any union I would resign and demand a refund of my contributions from 1997 on the grounds that my union had taken no action to protect my interests.