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UK’s Brown says people right to worry over pensions

UK – UK finance minister Gordon Brown says people are right to be anxious over pensions – but denied there is a pensions crisis.

“Nobody is saying that people are wrong to be anxious or worried,” Brown said in an interview with BBC radio. But asked about whether there was a pensions crisis in the UK, he said: “Not at all.”

“I believe we have a strong pension system,” Brown said.

Brown defended the change in dividend taxation policy which has taken five billion pounds annually from the UK pension industry, saying it was a continuation of a policy that was began under the previous government. He said the move has boosted corporate investment.

“I believe that people will see there are options ahead,” he said. “I don’t accept the decisions we’ve made have been the wrong ones.” He said such decision had been good for the economy and good for the pension system.

On the prospect for making pensions compulsory, Brown said that if voluntarism “doesn’t work of course it’s an option”. He said people would have to await the findings of the Turner Commission, which is due to report next month.

New pensions minister Alan Johnson announced the creation of a “new challenge fund to generate more workplace advice by specially trained union representatives”.

Speaking at the Labour Party’s annual conference, Johnson said the pensions challenge “could become a crisis in 15 to 20 years if we fail to address the prospect of fewer people in work supporting more people in retirement”.

He said: “If the workers of today are to be secure in retirement then collectively we need to save more or work longer.

“I’ve rejected calls for a crude increase in the state pension age basically because it would have the heaviest impact on those who are the most dependent on the basic state pension.” And he called the Pension Protection Fund an “historic achievement”.

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