Since the State Opening of Parliament a few weeks ago, there has been much discussion surrounding its content and what it means for families and businesses across the UK.
One of the most important reforms announced in the speech was a new single-tier pension which will benefit women, carers and savers, and provide Borderers with a secure and decent pension when they retire.
Introducing fairer pensions has been one of the Lib Dems’ top priorities in government and I am glad to say we have already restored the earnings link to ensure we never again see the paltry 75p rises we had under Labour. In fact, we delivered the largest-ever increase to the state pension last year worth £5.30 per week.
In another step towards fairer pensions, the Westminster Government outlined its plans in the Queen’s Speech to introduce a bill for a simple, flat-rate pension. This will give people confidence to know what they will be entitled to when they retire and stop penalising savers.
The changes will also ensure that Borderers who have taken time out of work to care for children or elderly or disabled relatives will no longer lose out because they will be able to build up credits towards their pension.
Over the years as local MP, I have met many Borderers who have been stung by means testing for the state pension or faced a reduced pension because of caring responsibilities. This new state pension will end this unfairness and mean that people in these situations can look forward to a decent pension on retirement.
Vince Cable’s visit
A couple of weekends ago, Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, visited the region to speak at our local Lib Dem annual dinner and meet businessmen and women from across the area.
During the meeting with local farm businesses we covered issues from bank lending to red tape, and Vince and I will be sure to take forward the concerns raised in the months ahead.
Before this, Vince and I toured John Seed’s farm near Duns and it was interesting to see the work he and his partners are doing at Woodend with the biomass boiler to make the farm self-sufficient in energy terms. The boiler provides the energy to run egg production at the farm as well as heat the farm cottages, saving the business thousands of pounds a year in energy costs.
This means that money is kept in the Borders, rather than being spent on energy bills, and can be used instead to invest in the business as well as provide jobs for local people.