Members of the House of Lords who are not paid a salary may claim a flat rate attendance allowance of £150 or £300 for each sitting day they attend the House. All they have to do is sign in and 5 minutes later they can leave and collect the money. Or, they could dine in their highly-subsidised restaurants first, of course.
“Older people should lose their pensions if they refuse to do community work to stop them being a “negative burden on society”, a former senior Whitehall official has suggested.
Lord Bichard, an ex-chief of the Benefits Agency, said the elderly should get rewards and fines to make sure they are taking a more active part in the world.
The crossbench peer, who also chaired an inquiry into the murder of two Soham school girls, suggested the same tough attitude towards benefit scroungers should be taken with older people.
“Older people who are not very old could be making a very useful contribution to civil society if they were given some incentive or recognition for doing so,” he told a committee of MPs.
“We’re prepared to say to people if you’re not looking for work, you don’t get a benefit. If you’re old and you’re not contributing in some way, maybe there should be some penalty attached to that. These debates never seem to take place.
“Are we using all the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?”
His remarks were condemned by pensioner groups as “little more than National Service for the over-60s”.
Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “This is absolutely outrageous. Those who have paid their national insurance contributions for 30 or more years are entitled to receive their state pension and there should be no attempt to put further barriers in their way.
“We already have one of the lowest state pensions in Europe and one in five older people in Britain live below the poverty line.”
Dr Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said the idea was “very strange indeed”.
“Those who have retired have already made huge contributions to our society and are already the largest group of charity and community volunteers,” she said. “The Saga website has been buzzing all day with angry messages of incredulity.”