BARON Bichard of Nailsworth found himself in the media spotlight this week following claims that he made comments implying that pensioners should undertake voluntary work in return for their pensions.

Michael Bichard - who was elevated to the peerage of Baron Bichard of Nailsworth in 2010 - was quoted in the national media as saying that pensioners are a 'burden on the state' who need to make 'a more positive contribution'.

Lord Bichard, a former chief executive of Gloucestershire County Council who has lived in Nailsworth for five years, was said to have made the remarks during a parliamentary select committee debating the impact of an ageing population on public services on Wednesday, October 24.

However, this week the former civil servant spoke to the SNJ to clarify the reports, saying he was simply floating an idea at the committee rather than making a firm proposal.

The BBC reported that he asked fellow peers: "Are we using all the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?

"We're prepared to say to people if you're not looking for work, you don't get a benefit. If you're old and you're not contributing in some way, maybe there should be some penalty attached to that."

Speaking to the SNJ, he said: "I want to make clear that I have never suggested that pensioners should be expected to work for their pensions.

"I asked questions of witnesses at a select committee and these have been misrepresented on the BBC website as representing my views. They do not.

"I do think we should better recognise the talents of older people and encourage them to continue to contribute to their communities if that is what they want to do but never under duress.

"As a result of this misrepresentation I have been subjected to thousands of offensive emails and some pretty unpleasant media coverage so I am pleased to have the chance to put the record straight at least on my home patch."'

Lord Bichard, 65, is a former head of the Benefits Agency and was once a top civil servant in education but he is best known for chairing the 2004 inquiry into the Soham murders.