Chancellor Gordon Brown tried to derail Lord Turner’s pension reforms by threatening to bring down Prime Minister Tony Blair over the loans for peerages scandal, according to Blair’s memoirs.
In A Journey, Blair says Brown told him to shelve Turner’s pension proposals or he would call for an inquiry into the loans scandal which Brown believed would “wreck his leadership”.
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 where 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.
“If I would agree to shelve the Turner proposals, he would not do it. But if I persisted, he would.”
Later that day Blair told Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton that the reforms were to go ahead. An hour after this meeting Labour Party Treasurer 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. Brown was in favour of rebalancing rich and poor in provision of the basic state pension. I was totally opposed to that.”
Blair still believes that the reforms led by Turner “will, in the end, form the basis of the next generation’s pensions provision.”
Hargreaves Lansdown pensions analyst Laith Khalaf says: “The changes occurring to the second state pension deliver in some sense the Brownite vision of redistribution. But it is interesting that as Prime Minister, Brown took forward a lot of Turner’s recommendations in the
Pensions Act 2008 – Nest and auto-enrolment being the key ones.”