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‘Ministers could be jailed over pensions’

Conservative Shadow Treasury Chief Secretary Philip Hammond claims if Government ministers were subject to FSA regulation they would be jailed for some of the promises they have made on pension personal accounts.

Speaking at the Tax Incentivised Savings Association conference in London last week, Hammond attacked some of the promises made by ministers on returns that investors could hope to get through personal accounts. He said the Tories back personal accounts in principle but still have “serious concerns” over how they will work in practice.

He said: “The first concern we have is about means-testing and the potential in personal accounts for the biggest misselling scandal of all time, underpinned by some of the comments made by ministers about the returns that people will receive on their investment in personal accounts. I am quite sure that if ministers were subject to the FSA, some of them would be jailed by now.”

Hammond left the penson portfolio responsibility 18 months ago and said that he was surprised at how little progress had been made on means-testing. He said the Government’s only solution was to increase the trivial commutation threshold which is a very expensive option.

He also criticised the Government’s tax treatment of pension funds, saying. “It has cost pension funds a great deal – £5bn per year plus £100bn of capital value – but it has also helped to reinforce a story in the public’s mind about the lack of security in pension savings that started with Robert Maxwell, went on through misselling and Equitable Life and the people who lost out when their occupational schemes failed.”

A Labour spokesperson says: “This is truly pathetic. As they struggle to find a coherent economic policy, yet again we can see the Tories desperately trying to make headlines. Given the cross-party support for the Pensions Bill, it is disappointing to see George Osborne’s right-hand man make such childish comments.”


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Watch out for traps

As macro economics dominates, it is no wonder that many clients will fail to see the benefits for them. It is clear that the Chancellor, if not the Prime Minister, hopes the proximity of Christmas will mean the main beneficiaries – those on lower incomes – will feel they can again spend and this infusion of cash into the retail sector will help the country get going.

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HSBC chief economist Dennis Turner has forecast the recession will be shallower and shorter than predicted, with a recovery starting in the second half of next year.

Offshore protection probe

Chancellor Alistair Darling has blasted overseas territories for “attracting banking customers with lower tax rates without contributing to the UK Exchequer” and has called for a review of their regulatory arrangements.


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