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Offices scratch heads over Govt earmarking data

The Government appears to be confused over the number of pensions earmarked by the courts last year after life offices accused it of getting the numbers wrong.

Earmarking allows divorced couples to share pension payments. It was introduced in July 1996 to benefit women who may have been left without adequate pension provision after divorce.

According to figures from the Lord Chancellor&#39s Department released in January, only 29 court orders were made for earmarking in England and Wales from February to December last year.

But in September last year, Scottish Equitable received figures from the Lord Chancellor&#39s office which showed there had already been 89 earmarking orders.

The latest figures from the National Association of Pension Funds, covering 833 company schemes, show that occupational schemes received 85 orders last year.

The inaccuracy of the figures is likely to be an embarrassment to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, particularly as his department seems to be unable to work out what has gone wrong.

Scottish Equitable pensions development manager Steven Cameron says: "The figures must be inaccurate. How many people will say earmarking is not serving any purpose? We are in a transitional period with the pensions review. As a result, the review team must ask itself is it worth it and is sharing right?"

Axa Sun Life spokesman Steve Muir says: "There appears to be a disparity and this could come from the definitions placed on earmarking. We need to know more clearly what they consider an earmarking order."

The Government is to replace earmarking with pension sharing in two years.

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