UK- The UK Conservative party claims that official government statistics show assets held in occupational pension funds have suddenly fallen by more than £100bn (e164bn).

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics at the end of last year showed the total assets for 1999 in both private and public sector occupational pension funds were £784bn. Official data released three months later report the same figure as £679bn and the 2000 total at £658bn.

David Willets, Conservative spokesman on work and pensions, says it is unclear exactly why the figures have fallen so much. Labour’s department of work and pensions declined to comment but an official statement is expected later today.

Willets says falling markets are partly responsible for dwindling values but adds that since the shortfall covers a period before markets fell heavily, the government is to blame.

“Ministers must accept full responsibility because it is their excessive regulations and the abolition of advanced corporation tax credits that are the main causes,” he says.

Conservatives suggest the shortfall means more people will have to rely on the government’s means tested pension credit. Labour admits 65% of pensioners could receive this credit at a total cost of £26bn by 2050 but Willets claims the fall in fund values may push the cost even higher.

Willets will use this evening’s session in the house of commons to question the pensions secretary Alistair Darling about the shortfall.