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UK Pension Commission may be permanent

UK – The Pensions Commission report due later this month may propose that it becomes a more permanent feature, according to pensions reform minister Stephen Timms.

“It may suggest some sort of enduring institution to look at issues on a more standing basis,” he said.

This body would keep the pensions system under review, and provide proposals for possible amendments.

Timms was speaking in London today at the Society of Pensions Consultants’ annual conference entitled ‘Company Pensions: In Sickness and In Health”.

At present, however, the Pensions Commission is due to stay in existence for a few more months following the report “just to wind things up”, said Timms.

The Department for Work and Pensions stated it could not comment any further until the final Commission report has been released on November 30.

A spokesperson added that a permanent Pensions Commission might also be set up if ministers wanted a body in place to monitor pensions.

Timms stated in his speech that the government wished to encourage a culture of life-long savings, and to meet the challenges of an ageing society underpinned by values of equity and justice.

Panel member and Hermes non-executive director Sir Tim Chessells - who was speaking in his personal capacity - stated there was an appalling problem of lack of pensions equality, and made reference to MPs’ “privileged pension position”.

“It’s a fairness issue,” he told IPE. He stated that a review of pensions should also include a review of MPs’ pensions.

Chessells said he found it “absolutely shocking” that the long-term costs of public sector pension schemes would fall on taxpayers’ shoulders, who may not in themselves have adequate pensions.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrats’ pensions spokesman, agreed that there was a disparity between public and private sector pensions.

‘It’s a pity that it is the one issue the Turner report is not going to address in much detail,” he said.

There was mixed reaction during the panel discussion as to whether the government should institute mandatory pensions saving.

While Kay Carberry of the TUC saw an extension of compulsion as the only way to increase pension savings to the level needed, independent policy advisor Dr Ros Altmann stated this was no guarantee that the problem would be solved.

“People will go and borrow more to maintain their spending level,” she said.

Chessells added: “Some level of compulsion was regrettably needed”.

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