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Bee plea rejected as debate is derailed

The Government has accused critics of personal accounts of undermining the interests of low to middle-earners in its response to pension guru Steve Bee’s online petition.

The Prime Minister’s Office this week rejected a petition from Scottish Life head of pensions Bee calling for it to scrap auto-enrolment into personal accounts unless it could guarantee people would be at least a pound better off for every pound they saved.

The Government’s response directly quotes Which?, stating: “It is a concern that the debate around such issues could attempt to derail personal accounts. We believe that to do so would be inimical for the target market and undermine their interests.”

The rejection has provoked a furious response from advisers and providers who believe the Government is seeking to suppress legitimate debate.

Bee says: “This is not anything near a proper response. We will be writing to the Government again and pressing for a proper reply.

“The Government cannot hide behind a quote from Which? when so many respectable voices in the industry are warning that low to mid-earners could be so badly affected by the scheme.”

Hargreaves Lansdown head of pensions research Tom McPhail says: “Any argument which uses Which? to substantiate it with regard to pension reform is in serious trouble. This is an implicit acknowledgement that there is a risk with personal accounts. It is clear the Government is prepared to accept some casualties of war for the greater good.”

Syndaxi Financial Planning director Robert Reid says: “The Government is being completely disingenuous. Gordon Brown will not get rid of means-testing and it is important that advisers do not end up as the whipping boys.”

The online petition was signed by almost 2,500 people.

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