Lord Bichard: Retired people could do work for pensions

Lord Bichard Lord Bichard says fresh thinking is needed to help meet the cost of an ageing population

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Retired people could be encouraged to do community work such as caring for the "very old" or face losing some of their pension, a peer has suggested.

Lord Bichard, a former benefits chief, said "imaginative" ideas were needed to meet the cost of an ageing society.

And although such a move might be controversial, it would stop older people being a "burden on the state".

The peer is a member of a committee investigating demographic changes and their impact on public services.

The panel was told that the transfer of wealth from young to old in the UK was the highest in Europe.

Lord Bichard, a former head of the Benefits Agency and top civil servant at the Education Department, who is probably best known for chairing the 2004 inquiry into the Soham murders, said the debate on rising healthcare and pension costs needed to be broadened out.

"Are there ways in which we could use incentives to encourage older people, if not to be in full time work, to be making a contribution?," he asked the rest of the committee.

"It is quite possible, for example, to envisage a world where civil society is making a greater contribution to the care of the very old, and older people who are not very old could be making a useful contribution to civil society in that respect, if they were given some incentive or some recognition for doing so."

'Tuition fees'

The 65-year-old crossbench peer, who has taken on a number of roles including the vice presidency of the Local Government Association and the chairmanship of a national after-school film club since retiring from the civil service in 2001, suggested the government should use the pensions system to "incentivise" retired people.

Start Quote

The current generation are very heavy contributors to the public purse, whereas previous generations have benefited from the public purse”

End Quote Dr James Sefton Imperial College

"We are now prepared to say to people who are not looking for work, if you don't look for work you don't get benefits, so if you are old and you are not contributing in some way or another maybe there is some penalty attached to that."

He asked: "Are we using all of 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?"

Prof Martin Weale, a member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee, said the proposal was "outside the normal range of what is discussed", but added it was an "interesting point".

Asked about his suggestion after the meeting, Lord Bichard said it was a new idea but he intended to look into it further as part of his work for the committee.

He acknowledged it would be difficult for politicians to sell to the public, but added: "So was tuition fees."


Pensioners' rights campaigners reacted angrily to Lord Bichard's idea.

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: "This amounts to little more than national service for the over 60s and 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."

Michelle Mitchell, director general of the charity Age UK, said: "Older people are a hugely positive part of society - over a third of people aged between 65 and 74 volunteer, a percentage that only drops slightly for the over 75s.

"In addition, nearly a million older people provide unpaid care to family or friends saving the state millions of pounds."

She added that almost a third of working age parents rely on grandparents to provide childcare - and more than 900,000 people are working past the traditional retirement age "either because they want to or because they can't afford to retire".

But she added: "We must not forget that retirement is a vastly different experience depending on your personal circumstances. For example, 40% of all people over 65 have a serious longstanding illness and 1.7m of our pensioners live in poverty.

"For many of those, retirement can be an unrelenting struggle of trying to survive on a low income in poor health."

Ros Altmann, director general of Saga, said: "This is a very strange idea indeed. Those who have retired have already made huge contributions to our society and are already the largest group of charity and community volunteers."


Prof James Sefton, of Imperial College, London, a former adviser to the Treasury, told the committee young people were effectively subsidising the older generation - and he could not understand why they were not protesting about it.

"I think they should be angry. I think the deal they are getting is poor," he told the peers.

"There are a lot of transfers going on within the system, from the young towards the old and I think awareness of it is very poor and I think eventually it will come out."

He said research he was carrying out at Imperial College, with Dr David McCarthy, suggested "the current generation are very heavy contributors to the public purse, whereas previous generations have benefited from the public purse".

This was mostly down to high house prices, high youth unemployment, rising public debt and the cost of education, added Prof Sefton, who is also a quantitative analyst at UBS bank.

The older generation benefits from public funds, in the form of healthcare and pensions, but younger people have to rely more on "private transfers" of wealth, such as family money, to a far greater extent than in other European countries, he added.

Update 26 October 2012: Lord Bichard has asked us to clarify that he was floating an idea at the committee rather than making a firm proposal. This report has been slightly amended to take account of that.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1112.


    Why didn't I think of that? lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 1111.

    Fine words and ideas,coming from a Whitehall Madarin,who retired at the age of 53 in 2001,with an alleged index linked pension of a £120,000 plus,a year,and who has probably,never picked up a hammer or screwdriver,or done a days hard physical labour in his life.Grrrr....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1110.

    How can older people be a burden on the state when all of our contributions to the NHS, from a life time of employment, were made to enable for us to be cared for from 'the cradle to the grave'? In a few years from now the Government, regardless of party, will be saying that our injured and deformed Heroes have also become a burden.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1109.

    Man in receipt of £300 tax free per day and large public sector pension (after retiring at 55) says pensioners need to contribute to society to 'earn' their benefit (which the vast majority have paid tax toward all their lives)

    Come back Guy Fawkes, all is forgiven and November 5th is approaching fast !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1108.

    Lord Richard (or full title Michael George Bichard, Baron Bichard, KCB,) was born in 1947. He retired in 2001 aged 54. Assuming he was at University until age 21, that means he was able to retire after only 33 years. Yet this parasite, who has only ever suckled from the public teat, has the gall to say someone who has put in around 47 years needs to work more?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1107.

    What we need are decent jobs at a decent rate of pay. Make all the rich tax avoiding companies pay their full tax bills and pay their workers a living wage instead of minimum wage part time jobs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1106.

    I left school at 16, worked for nearly 50 years , mainly in the private sector, paying PAYE and NI. I have never and still do not claim any supplementary benefits.

    As a career Civil Servant Lord Bichard presumably went to university, had a well-paid job, has a substantial pension and now a position in the House of Lords - all funded by the taxpayer!

    Who is the bigger burden on the state?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1105.

    Hey, we've done our bit. We paid National Insurance for 40 years to earn a pension - we should not have to work all over again to receive it.

    It is OURS, we have already paid!

    Further, my "community service" is ensuring that my children and grandchildren are also financially secure.

    So, hands off, government, go tax someone else now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1104.

    If the government had invested my and my employers contributions to my pension scheme in a bank account at 5% there would have been £500,000 there now to pay my pension from.
    Instead they spent it like revenue as they got it.
    I am not a burden on the state , I made provision but the government stole the premiums.
    The state has therefore been a burden on me for 40yrs not the other way round.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1103.

    Unfortunately I couldn't opt out of National Insurance payments, which I understood were for the NHS and state pension, AT 65!

    The government appear to have broken that contract and so if Lord Bichard would like to repay me my last 42 years of National Insurance contributions I will gladly sell up and clear off to France and not cost the UK one penny more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1102.

    "Pensioners already worked for their pensions. For forty to fifty years they've put money into the National Insurance pot"

    No, no, no. That paid for pensioners THEN. Current pensions are funded by current contributions..and their aren't enough contributors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1101.

    This man retired 11 years ago on a full civil service pension, aged 54, nice to see he is in touch with reality!

    "The 65-year-old crossbench peer, who has taken on a number of roles including the vice presidency of the Local Government Association and the chairmanship of a national after-school film club since retiring from the civil service in 2001.."

  • rate this

    Comment number 1100.

    if the aged are made to work in their retirement after paying NI all their working lives,will Lord "i'm alright jack" Bichard ensure that we all get a refund on our contributions?
    Obviously then NI contribution are part of a ponzi scam and it's falling apart

  • rate this

    Comment number 1099.

    All Governments target pensioners - coalition with the "triple-lock" con and labour with Gordon Brown's frequent pension raids. All as bad as each other - it sickens me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1098.

    Yet another tory genius, with an idea for how to compel people to work for less than NMW.

    Give these jobs at proper rates to the young.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1097.

    Disagree with Bichard's idea but here's a much better alternative t

    National care service where relatively healthy retired people would voluntarily give up about 2 years of their time to care for their less able brothers and sisters (rather like national service, but for older people). In return for this, the volunteers would be guaranteed free care when they come to need it

  • rate this

    Comment number 1096.

    No doubt he will be volunteering his services to the upper chamber and not claiming the generous attendance allowances...
    Having worked with many Olympics volunteers I can confirm that the elderly do volunteer en mass and were probably the largest demographic to have done so on that occasion. Suggest by all means but threatening to remove earned benefits is obscene.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1095.

    Lavernius Tucker - you fail to take into consideration the purchasing power of the money they paid in. They may have only paid in £28k but this was still a large proportion of their income. These £350k houses you mention will eventualy be passed down anyway. The reason you cant afford a house is because you'd rather wear Prada and use Iphone 5's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1094.

    How much would be taken from a pension if the recipient chooses not to work? How does this idea affect those pensioners who live overseas, on pension only, without any other universal benefit, in many cases not even being allowed a vote any more? Is the long term aim to stop pensions being paid overseas altogether? Answers to these questions would be greatly appreciated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1093.

    Is Lord Bichard putting his name on the list to this first then? Thought not, bet he has a few bob and wouldn't dirty his hands with the plebs!


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