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DWP study to seek means-test solution

The Government has launched a study into the impact of means-testing on personal accounts although industry experts warn it could be used to sideline the issue to ensure an easy passage through Parliament for the Pensions Bill.

The Government has previously played down the implications of means-testing, which is threatening to derail the introduction of personal accounts in 2012.

The study, announced last week by Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell, will investigate how many people could end up worse off or no better off if they save in a personal account and will seek solutions to overcome the problem.

Research bodies, including the Pensions Policy Institute and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, are being invited to contribute to the study as well as opposition parties and charities. The report is due to be published towards the end of the year.

Hargreaves Lansdown head of pensions research Tom McPhail says: “It is a way of parking a thorny issue until they manage to push through the legislation. Announcing an investigation is a way of blocking the means-testing issue until after the bill has become an act.”

Scottish Life head of pensions strategy Steve Bee says: “I would have thought it better to put the bill on the back-burner while the Government go away and check just how many people are likely to be affected. Why carry on with making the Pension Bill into law before we know the answer to the big question?”

Standard Life head of pensions policy John Lawson says: “Whether it is good news depends on what the report says and whether it tries to gloss over the issues. The Government has probably agreed to do it because the Tories were threatening to break the consensus around the bill.”


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