Opinion  

Pension reform is an equitable and elegant solution

Tony Hazell

Tony Hazell

The new look state pension is very much as we had been told to expect. And despite the gripers I cannot find a lot to complaint about.

The key thing is that under the new regime everyone with a 35-year national insurance record will know exactly what they can expect: £144 a week in today’s money.

In one fell swoop the government will do away with means-testing for anyone retiring after April 2017.

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Those who save for retirement will know that their saving will be rewarded. Those that cannot afford to save will get a bigger pension without having to fill in confusing forms.

Yes, there will be losers. Public sector workers and others in final salary schemes will have to pay more national insurance.

But in the case of the public sector, at least, this is removing a double subsidy by the taxpayer.

If I had a gripe it would be that employers running final salary pension schemes will lose their lower national insurance rates: surely such commitment to your workforce deserves financial recognition?

The big winners will be the lower paid and self-employed. The latter have for years paid national insurance and received precious little in return – so this is righting a long-term wrong.

The return of minimum contribution record to get a pension seems sensible.

One group of people who could be rubbing their hands with glee are those who had the foresight to opt-out of Serps for a few years and place their national insurance money in an appropriate personal pension.

After years of the “should you” or “shouldn’t you” opt-out debate, the right answer appears to have been “opt-out” for a time.

The extra NI paid by those who stayed in will not in some cases be enough to boost their pension past the £144 foundation point.

Those who chose the APP will, if they can still achieve 35 years opted in, receive the full £144 plus the extra in their personal pension.

No doubt there will be plenty more debate about cliff edges and fairness before the new pension comes in.

But Steve Webb the pensions minister has performed a remarkable job in creating the most equitable and elegant solution with the money available.

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Time to act

In my days as a full time employee of the Daily Mail I suggested we run a feature on Gordon Brown called The Schizophrenic Chancellor.

The piece highlighted how, with great regularity, he was espousing prudence and savings while his policies ran in the opposite direction.

I cannot make the same charge against the current government – but I can say that announcing a policy is not the same as enacting it.

And this government is developing a worrying habit of taking the plaudits without fulfilling the pledges in a timely fashion.