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Is pensions consensus possible?

Members of the All Party Group met up with Scottish Widows over dinner at County Hall on Tuesday evening with pensions as the number one topic.

The work that Scottish Widows has put in to informing the debate on the future of pensions, and especially the creation of Personal Accounts, has certainly not gone unoticed as a slot on that morning's Today programme amply demonstrated. It certainly impressed the MPs and Peers attending on Tuesday night.

With the next White Paper on pensions due to be published in a couple of weeks time, the debate on the shape of the Personal Accounts, means testing, exemptions and so on is being stoked up. That is to be expected. One message that came through loud and clear from the debate across the table, however, was the need to achieve and maintain a political consensus around the principles of the reforms if they are to stand any chance of winning the confidence of a very cyncial (non) saving public. There was little doubt what those prinicples had to be among the cross-section of Parliamentarians there: simplicty, means-testing applied in such a way as people do not end up worse off, a product that genuinely appeals to those on lower incomes not currently saving and not just another tax efficient vehicle for the better off, real action on ineuqlity for women in the current regime and a restoration of the earnings link for state pensions. Not bad for starters.

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