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Tata Steel: Government 'going down dangerous path'

Tata steel plant in Port Talbot, Wales. Credit: PA Wire

The government is "going down a very dangerous path" in seeking to change pension laws to save Tata Steel's UK operation, an ex-Liberal Democrat pensions minister has said.

Steve Webb said any changes could affect the pension security of "hundreds of thousands of workers, well beyond the steel industry".

Everyone has huge sympathy for steel workers and for efforts to protect jobs, but rushed changes to pension rules risk driving a coach and horses through the pension security of hundreds of thousands of workers, well beyond the steel industry.

The rules to protect pensions have been carefully worked out over many years.

Rushed legislation could open the floodgates to employers who may wish to walk away from their pension schemes rather than honour their pension promises.

The Government must tread very carefully in this area.

– Steve Webb

Government urged to protect steelworkers' pensions

Steelworkers' pensions must be protected in any plan to save Tata Steel's UK operation, Labour has said.

ITV News understands ministers are exploring ways of reducing the firm's UK pension burden in a bid to attract buyers.

Reacting to the reports, Owen Smith, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, said:

Dealing with the Tata pension scheme must be a central part of any Government package to save our steel industry, so it will be totally inappropriate for Ministers to rush out this vital announcement, in a written statement without any scrutiny on the final day before a recess.

Steel workers’ pensions must be protected, they’ve earned them with hard graft over many years.

So if Ministers are considering measures which might see those pensions reduced, MPs from all parties, especially those representing steel communities, will want a chance to question the plans, along with the trade unions who are playing such a vital and impressive role standing up for Tata workers.

If these reports are accurate, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions should come to the House to explain precisely what is being proposed, including how current and future steel pensioners will be affected and what precedents might be set by any changes to hard won pension protection legislation.

– Owen Smith MP
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