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Edward Vaizey

I love election manifestos. They&#39re like love letters. They make you feel fantastic. A little tweak here, a little tweak there and pretty soon the world will be set to rights. Of course, like love letters, all those good intentions go sour in the end.

Political parties have got into the habit of publishing multiple manifestos. London, the disabled, the Welsh, the Scottish, all have bespoke editions. Not the poor financial services industry, however. We must make do with trawling the main manifestos for nuggets to help IFAs prepare for future reforms.

This week, I&#39m looking at the opposition – the Tories and LibDems (forgive me, Plaid Cymru and SNP). Both parties offer surprisingly similar solutions to some of the debates bedevilling the financial services arena. I have

to give victory to the Tories by a clear length because the rest of the Lib Dem manifesto sits in La-La land.

Concentrating on financial services, both parties are offering funded state pensions as the solution to the age-old problem of the basic state pension. The Tories is called, er, the Funded Pension. The Lib Dems&#39 pension is titled Owned Second Pension Account.

During the 1997 general election, Peter Lilley, then the Tories&#39 Social Security Secretary, launched his Basic Pensions Plus policy. He had slaved long and hard over this idea, which was to bring into being funded state pensions. Imagine the surprise of this thoughtful man when Labour treated his policy like an egg-throwing protester, and socked it repeatedly in the jaw.

The treatment meted out to Basic Pensions Plus is a good example of how bad politics gets in the way of good policies. Everyone knows the current state pension system is unsustainable, everyone knows it needs to be funded and everyone knew Basic Pensions Plus was the solution. So it is delightful to see the policy revived, even if the Tories&#39 proposal is bomb-proofed by only being available for new entrants to the workforce.

Both parties adopt the Oonagh approach to annuities – the stalwart Dr Oonagh McDonald, ex-Labour MP, whose work on annuities has persuaded both Opposition parties to review the compulsory purchase rules. The future of annuities will be a big debate over the next 12 months.

Long-term care is the final part of this tripod of main policies. The Tories propose cautious reform and promise to consult to ensure those who save for long-term care costs do not end up losing all their assets if final costs spiral out of control. It is at this point that the LibDems go off the deep end promise free long-term care for all. They also trot out again their barmy proposals to raise income tax to pay for education and to raise the top rate of tax to 50p. We work until June for this Government. Under the LibDems we&#39ll be working through Christmas. The Tories promise inheritance tax reform, which is long overdue.

These are the headlines. But both parties have sucked up to the IFA sector, in particular, the delightful, chain-smoking Tory spokesman Howard Flight who has promised a review of the FSA, a review of stamp duty on shares and further polarisation reform to protect independent advice.

Who to vote for? On specifics, there is not much to choose between the two and they are silent on the future of Isas and product regulation. But everyone&#39s favourite rent-a-quote IFA Jason Hollands is standing as a Tory candidate so the Tories must be doing something right.


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