Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat MP, managed to keep a fairly low profile throughout the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Lib Dem Coalition Government. This is despite serving as Minister of State for Pensions, a brief that usually excites a fair amount of interest from the press and others for the whole life of the coalition.
Mr Webb’s interests stayed fairly close to his brief throughout his time in office, and he rarely felt the need to speak out on any issues such as online gambling. Despite taking a fairly close interest in his constituency, where the number of betting shops and other gambling related operations increased during the years of the coalition government, as they did across the UK as a whole, he never made any particular statement on the issue in the House of Commons. A search of Hansard, the official record of everything that is ever said in Parliament in an official capacity, draws a complete blank for the terms Steve Webb and gambling.
What a web search for these terms will however throw up is concern that the pension reforms that Steve Webb helped to see through, alongside Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith, led to a boom in irresponsible gambling among the older generation. The particular reforms in question allowed pensioners to take a lump sum from their pension at retirement age and spend it as they wish, subject of course to the standard tax arrangements. When the change was first introduced, there was significant concern in some pages of the popular press that some pensioners would use this newfound freedom to gamble the money away. This would risk a generation of pensioners becoming a significant burden to the state in later years, after spending the majority of their pension savings in the early years of their retirement.
These stories, however, were mostly backed up with anecdotal evidence at best and no detailed studies carried out by reputable organisations have actually corroborated the claims that pensioners are using their newfound freedom in this way. Steve Webb was later rewarded with a knighthood for his services in government and the popular online financial publication This is Money stated that it was well deserved. This is particularly significant as This is Money is produced by the same publishing stage as the Daily Mail newspaper, which was generally suspicious of the actions of Lib Dem MPs during their time in government.
Since he was defeated in the General Election of 2015, Steve Webb has continued to show an interest in pensions and other issues that have an impact on the older generation. Shortly after he was defeated in the election, Webb took up a position at the pensions firm Royal London, where he was able to put his significant experience in the sector, gained during his time in government, to good use. He has however kept a low media profile in this role and seems happy to stay away from newspapers and TV studios and live a quiet life.