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Editorial: A hard road for Blunkett

It almost seems like a case of another day another pensions minister under Tony Blair’s Government. Former Home Sec-retary and Education Secretary David Blunkett is the new Work and Pensions Secre-tary. He replaces Alan Johnson, who had been making the right noises about pension reform although admittedly without completing any major initiatives.

In Blunkett, the post now has a former Cabinet big-hitter, albeit one who just a few months ago quit amid a media storm about his personal life and suggestions that he had got it mixed up with his ministerial duties.

We know that at the Home Office, Blunkett was not afraid to make tough decisions although it may not have endeared him to liberals or lovers of the constitution. In education, he made much of his own administrative abilities.

There are several big pension tasks ahead. The first is to try and find a way to safeguard employees and pensioners whose defined-benefit pension schemes fail, without placing too much of a strain on other occupational schemes.

But Blunkett also faces ensuring pension simplification goes through smoothly and might even look at stakeholder, particularly as some of the big pension providers continue to signal their discontent.

Blunkett will also have a view on means-testing and its impact on savings. He must also grapple with whatever recommendations the Turner Commission makes for reforming pension provision.

But on all these pension issues, perhaps the key relationship will be with the architect of much of this means-testing, and arguably the Prime Minister in waiting, Gordon Brown. Hopefully, they can work together but at least in Blunkett we know that we do not have another yes man.


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