The next government needs to hit the ground running after May

By Michael Burton | 25 February 2015
  • Michael Burton

Pensions minister Steve Webb is one of the more technocratic politicians having mastered a complicated brief to the extent that he can easily hold his own as a speaker with pension anoraks. The Liberal Democrat minister for Thornbury and Vale near Bristol has also actually delivered something substantial other than soundbites and short-term initiatives.

His achievements include auto-enrolment, the triple-lock guarantee for pensioners and a single pension from 2016. Maybe being a former economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies where he researched into benefits, and a professor of social policy, helps. Either way, he could feature in any post-election leadership contest to replace Nick Clegg.

But his recent comments about the short window of opportunity for incoming governments to make legislative changes is an important message to whoever occupies No 10 from May.

At a recent breakfast seminar he explained what he found when he became minister five years ago: ‘I’ve learned how long it takes to do things. The new single state pension was on a long list of options which I received in 2010. Originally it was earmarked for 2020 but I got it down to 2016, which means it still took six years. You’ve got a Green paper, a White Paper, a Bill, regulations. Whoever comes in after May can’t waste time.’

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