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‘Don’t take politics out of pensions’

Pensions minister Steve Webb has urged caution over suggestions that setting up a permanent commission to oversee pension policy could be the best way to provide long-term stability.

Webb was asked by a Which? representative at a Liberal Democrat conference fringe meeting in Birmingham last week if a permanent commission might take the politics out of pension reform and lead to a more consistent approach on the issue when Governments change.

Webb highlighted the fact that many of the reforms proposed by Lord Adair Turner’s Pensions Commission have stood the test of time and could be seen as evidence that a permanent commission would be valuable but he added that trying to depoliticise pensions would be a mistake.

He said: “My hesitation is people say, take the politics out of pensions, it is long term. Take the politics out of climate change, it is long term. But these are issues are about what generation and which sector pays. You are never going to depoliticise these things because ultimately they are value judgements and that is the very stuff of politics.”

Unison West Midlands secretary Ravi Subramanian told the meeting he thinks a permanent commission is an idea worth exploring but suggested politics has already been sidelined too much.

He said: “In terms of the commission, I think it is worth looking at and the low pay commission is a good example of one. But one of the problems in our society is we do not have enough politics.

“The X Factor is the biggest participatory democracy in our society. Politics is important and we should educate people that it is not a dirty word.”

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