Gordon Brown attempted to derail Lord Turner’s pension reforms by threatening to bring down Tony Blair over the loans for peerages scandal, according to Blair’s memoir.
In A Journey, published this morning, Blair writes that Brown told him to shelve Turner’s pension reform proposals or he would call for an inquiry into the loans scandal.
Blair says: “A hugely wide-ranging consultation…got as close to consensus as it is possible to get without yielding on the essential principles of reform. But bits of support peeled off on various different aspects. The Conservatives were not fully behind it, and the Treasury reaction was fierce”.
Recounting a meeting the morning the proposals were to get the go ahead, Blair writes: “He began the conversation not by talking of pensions, but by saying how damaging the loans thing was; that there might have to be an NEC inquiry; and he might have to call for one.”
He adds: “The temperature, already below freezing point, went arctic when he then said: Well it depends on this afternoon’s meeting. If I would agree to shelve the Turner proposals, he would not do it. But if I persisted, he would.”
An hour after the meeting in which Blair told Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton that the reforms were to go ahead Jack Dromey made his statement calling for an inquiry.
Blair says: “I really don’t know for a fact that Gordon put Jack up to it. Gordon denied ever speaking to him.”
He adds:“(Brown) was in favour of rebalancing rich and poor in provision of the basic state pension. I was totally opposed to that. I felt the public at large would consider the basic state pension as their ‘dividend’ or ‘entitlement’ for their national insurance contributions.”
Blair still believes the reforms led by Turner “will, in the end, form the basis of the next generation’s pensions provision”.