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UK roundup: State pension, automatic pension age, NAPF, Ed Miliband

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  • UK roundup: State pension, automatic pension age, NAPF, Ed Miliband

UK - Delays in publishing a White Paper on reform to the UK's state pension have been branded disappointing by the industry, with the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) saying that the time for discussion was now past.

Addressing parliament yesterday, pensions minister Steve Webb said the Department for Work and Pensions was still considering how to implement the reforms to the state pension, as well as a proposed automatic link between increasing longevity and state pension age.

"Given the scale, complexity and importance of these two significant reforms, we are still working on the details to ensure we get them right," the Liberal Democrat minister told MPs.

He promised that detailed proposals would be published in the autumn, after the summer parliamentary recess.

Joanne Segars, chief executive at the NAPF, welcomed the confirmation that the state pension changes were still going ahead.

But she added: "The time for talking should be over by now. We need to see these reforms become reality."

Reforms to the state pension have been under discussion for well over a year, with the creation of a single-tier pension meant to increase weekly payments to an estimated £140 (€177).

Segars cautioned that the delay would increase pressure on the country's defined benefit schemes to adapt to the end of contracting-out of state second pension payments, with clarity called for "as a matter of urgency".

The organisation had previously warned of the "damaging" effects the abolition of S2P would have on DB schemes.

Meanwhile, leader of the opposition Ed Miliband has come under attack after criticising the level of pension charges.

At an event for political journalists in London yesterday, the Labour leader said that, once problems in banking have been addressed, the pensions industry should be investigated next - citing management charges of as much as 5%.

However, his comments have been strongly criticised by the Association of British Insurers, which said it was "absolutely wrong" to suggest such high charges were normal.

The organisation's director general Otto Thoresen said charges had been falling "steadily" for the last decade and that the trend was continuing.

He added that the average annual management charge among new auto-enrolment offerings was 0.52%, sometimes falling below 0.3%.

"Nobody in the pensions industry would defend a charge of 5% for a standard new pension, and we ask Ed Miliband to write to us with details of the schemes he is referring to," he said.

"The pensions industry is absolutely committed to ensuring charges are as low as possible and that customers understand what they are paying.

"We will continue to deliver further change, but this type of misinformed attack does not reflect the considerable progress the industry has already made."

Helen Dean, the National Employment Savings Trust's managing director of scheme development, added that it was "vital" to ensure that AMCs were low to protect pots, particularly of deferred members.

"With automatic enrolment rolling out in the next few months, millions of people will be able to benefit from saving for their later lives, so it has never been more important that employers and members have access to quality pension schemes," she added.

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