Tories unveil pensions proposals

Oct 12 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Britain's opposition Conservative Party has unveiled an eight-point programme to tackle the UK's pensions crisis.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary David Willetts, warned that without early action, retirement for millions will "fall a long way short of our expectations".

Earlier this year, Willets said that the pensions crisis was " up there with terrorism or global warming as a threat to much of what we value."

He called for measures to reverse the spread of means-testing, strengthen company pensions, and provide better incentives for saving.

"If nothing is done, retirement will fall a long way short of our expectations," he said. "What we need now is action. We must reverse the spread of means-testing, strengthen company pensions and provide better incentives for saving."

The Conservative proposals include rolling back the spread of means testing by linking the basic state pension to earnings rather than prices, and floating one million pensioners off means-tested benefits over four years - moves which would deliver increases worth £7 to a single pensioner and £11 to couples.

Better incentives to save would be created by scrapping the obligation to provide an annuity at the age of 75, and instead requiring people only to ensure that they had a sufficient income to avoid relying on means-tested benefits.

A new lifetime savings account, based on the Buy One, Get One Free (BOGOF) principle would ensure that individuals' contributions would be matched by the Government, while new Longevity Bonds would help provide the cover needed as people live longer.

A Conservatives administration would also cut red tape, enabling more firms provide pension schemes to employees; while the tax-free limit on the sums individuals can hold in pension schemes would be dropped.

Meanwhile help would be made available to the victims of collapsed pension schemes, with unclaimed assets in dormant bank and building society accounts used to rebuild would-up funds.