The Government is to bring forward an increase in the state pension age to 67 under plans to prolong the working life of millions of people under 50, according to the pensions minister.

Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb says timescales set by the previous Labour administration, under which the pension age was to be increased to 67 in 2036 and 68 by 2046, are "too slow".

Key Points

  • Increase in state pension age to be bought forward
  • Previous timescales are "too slow"
  • Retirement age could rise to 67 by 2026

In an interview with The Observer, the politician argued more drastic action needs to be taken to avoid a major pensions crisis as the life expectancy of UK residents continues to rise.

He said: "Everybody knows we are living longer. It is like an express train. I am even more convinced now than I was a year ago that we are running to standstill on all this stuff.

"In a world where you are going to live into your late 80s, and before we know it into your 90s, we think now we have got to move on these things."

Ministers are already pushing the Pensions Bill through Parliament that will raise the age at which men and women can claim a pension to 66 by 2020.

But it has been reported that the retirement age could rise to 67 as early as 2026 - affecting millions of people in their 40s who would have expected to stop work at 66.

Timescales are "too slow"

Webb said previous governments had failed to address a huge increase in life expectancy and argued that bringing forward the rise in the state pension age was crucial.

"The timescales for 67 and 68 are too slow," he said.

"If it is 67 in the mid-2030s we will be going backwards in terms of share of your life in retirement. The problem would be worse than 20 years before."

The MP added: "In a way, successive governments over the decades were so behind the curve behind all this.

"If you think of male pension age, it hasn't changed for a century. How much has life expectancy improved in a century? So, in a way, what is going on is a big dam that is finally breaking."

Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, says: "Any increase to the state pension age needs to ensure that people have enough time to plan for the change, Age UK believes that people require at least 10 years' notice.

"We also believe that the process of deciding the state pension age should be informed by independent advisers considering a range of factors."

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith insists the coalition is yet to decide on the timescale for reforms.

He told BBC 1's Andrew Marr Show: "We have been clear about this all along. The move to 67 will happen but the question only is on the timing, that's all, and we haven't made a decision about that yet."