Health secretary Andrew Lansley has privately attacked the government’s public sector pension shake-up, it was revealed today.
In a letter to Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander, he condemned elements of the reforms as “inappropriate” and “unrealistic”.
The changes would hit women health workers particularly hard, and do not meet the coalition’s “commitment to maintain gold-standard pensions”.
The damning critique, obtained by the Daily Telegraph, was penned two months ago after a paper describing the proposals was circulated to the Cabinet.
Mr Lansley’s views are likely to be seized on by unions, who have threatened national strikes over the controversial issue in the autumn. Previously Tory ministers were thought to be supportive of the plans.
Under the reforms outlined by Liberal Democrat Mr Alexander last month, public sector workers will retire later, contribute more to pensions, and receive payouts based on average career earnings, rather than final salary.
The letter from the health secretary - who oversees Britain’s biggest public sector employer - was sent two months ago.
Referring to the document distributed to ministers, he said: “The paper … assumes that public sector workers, many of whom are women, will work a 48-year career (to get a full pension).
“In the NHS currently, the average full time career for those taking a pension is only 18 years and it seems unrealistic to suggest that pension scheme design should be based on the assumption that a predominantly female workforce would need to work full-time, 48-year careers in future to receive a full pension.
“It is also difficult to see how this meets our commitment to maintain gold-standard pensions.”
Mr Lansley criticised other parts of the proposed reforms - drawn up following a government report by former Labour minister Lord Hutton - for being particularly unfair to NHS workers.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Things have moved on since this was written.
“Last month the chief secretary set out the government’s commitment to protect the low paid and ensure low and middle income earners get a pension at retirement broadly as good as they get now.
“And less than 10 days ago the whole of Cabinet signed up to the need for pension reform and agreed to further talks taking place on a scheme by scheme basis.”