UK – The opposition Conservative party has renewed its attack on pension contribution statistics, saying contributions to funded pensions are 14 billion pounds (21.3 billion euros) a year lower than the government’s claimed 46 billion pounds – though the government dismissed the story.

The party’s pensions spokesman David Willetts says the government is using statistics which overstate the level of contributions to funded pensions. He says the disparity is due to an oversight at the national statistics office, which he says has mis-classified asset transfers into group insured schemes as a single premium payment.

He calculates that the officially reported 18.2 billion pound contribution to group insured schemes is incorrect – and should be restated as four billion pounds.

“This analysis suggests that contributions to our funded pensions are really about 32 billion pounds rather than 46 billion pounds or the 86 billon pounds claimed a year ago,” Willetts writes in an article in The Times. An earlier article by Willetts in June 2002 prompted the statistics office to review the entire way it collected pensions data and forced the statistics office to almost halve is estimate of annual pension contributions.

The statistics office’s review, published in September, acknowledged “difficulties” with transfer data and said the basis of its estimates of transfers was “weak”.

A government pensions spokeswoman was unconcerned, calling the report “old news”.