Government stamps on idea that graduates should work to 70


The British Government has moved to quash suggestions that graduates could be compelled to work until the age of 70 as a way of solving the country's pensions crisis.

The idea was floated over the weekend by Pensions Commission chairman Adair Turner, although he made it clear it was not a formal proposal that was being looked at.

But the Department for Work and Pensions moved quickly to dismiss the suggestion, arguing that, while new secretary David Blunkett, was willing to consider issues such as flexible retirement, basing it on education qualifications was "distracting".

The Government is set to outline its thinking on the pensions' crisis and how to resolve it in a Commons' statement expected on 21 June.

That statement by Blunkett is expected to provide a clear steer to the Pensions Commission, which is due to report in full to Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chancellor Gordon Brown and Blunkett in the autumn, probably in November.

A conference on the issue, including the explosive issue of whether people should be compelled to pay into pensions, is also due to be held next month.

In reports over the weekend and this morning, aides to Blunkett have warned that the Government will need to ensure that any solution is not "too prescriptive".

It has also been reported that Blunkett plans to abandon plans by his predecessor Alan Johnson for a basic "citizen's pension", which would have been bigger than the current state pension and awarded to people as of right.

Turner, the former CBI director-general who is reviewing long-term pensions options, was reported over the weekend as suggesting that graduates should not get their pension as soon as other workers because they tended to earn more and live longer.

The suggestion caused horror and outrage among students and their representatives, who argued that graduates are already heavily indebted and the situation will only be exacerbated by top-up loans.

Brown, speaking on the Breakfast with Frost programme on Sunday, stressed there was no quick fix solution to the pensions' problem, and that there would need to extensive consultation over the best way forward.