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Suffolk Coastal MP under fire over National Insurance plans

PUBLISHED: 09:32 16 July 2012

Dr Therese Coffey

Dr Therese Coffey

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UNDER-FIRE MP Dr Therese Coffey last night said she had "no regrets" over writing a controversial paper recommending pensioners should be forced to pay national Insurance.

The proposal caused outrage among many over-65s who make up more than a quarter of her Suffolk Coastal constituency.

But speaking for the first time since the plans were published she told the East Anglian Daily Times: “I do not regret writing what I did about National Insurance.

“The Chancellor is looking to merge tax and NI and this is the kind of thing we should be talking about at this time. This was a policy proposal - it is by no means, at this stage, anymore than that.

“The question I ask is quite simple: Why should someone beyond the age of 65 get more take-home money for doing the same job as some younger?”

Her proposals - set out in a document published by the Free Enterprise Group who are a collective of Conservative MPs - caused an angry reaction when they were made public last week.

She thinks that with the extra money raised from forcing pensioners to continue paying NI young people could be encouraged into work.

“The money we would raise should be ploughed back in to the economy by making it more attractive for employers to take young people on,” she said.

But charities including Age UK have hit out at the plans claiming they are yet another blow for older people amid the swingeing Government cuts programme.

Dr Coffey disagrees: “I am shocked that people do not see how much this Government has done for pensioners in the short time we have been in power - the triple lock pension being the most important.”

“I recognise that one or two members have said ‘I don’t like that’ but sometimes MPs are going to be unpopular. In Westminster I have even had some Labour MP commenting to me on how they think it is a good idea.”

The latest anger towards Dr Coffey is not the first time she has upset her constituents in the safe Conservative seat - she also backed Government plans to sell off forests, ship-to-ship transfers off the coast near Southwold and the scaling back of coast guard stations.

“Fewer than 1pc of my consituents contacted me about forests and I was one of just three MPs nationally to hold a public meetings about it,” she said. “With regards to the coast guard stations I have spoken to people working in some of them and they have clearly said ‘we could do this job with half the stations’.

“Of course I regret upsetting anyone especially anyone within my constituency but I do not go out to deliberately do that. The balance between Westminster and the constituency is a difficult one and I don’t think people always fully understand that.”

Suffolk Coastal Conservative chairman Geoff Holdcroft offered his backing to Dr Coffey: “We are all very happy with Therese. She has my fully backing.”

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