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Stakeholder is an opt-out for firms

Stakeholder is letting employers off the hook by allowing them to opt out of contributing to an occupational schemes, say two leading champions of pensioner rights.

National Pensioners Convention president Rodney Bickerstaffe and former Labour Cabinet minister Barbara Castle have both criticised the Government&#39s flagship pension for not meeting the needs of its target market.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Brighton last week, Bickerstaffe, former head of the UK&#39s biggest union, Unison, called for the Government to introduce compulsion on employers to contribute to employees&#39 schemes. He predicted it could become an issue by the time of the next election, with Labour possibly promising to introduce compulsion if given a third term.

But Bickerstaffe ruled out compulsion on savers, saying it would not accomplish anything as most of those not saving now cannot afford to do so.

Castle, who set up Serps, and Bickerstaffe are best known for their efforts to restore the earnings link for the basic state pension.

The NPC-sponsored meeting saw the biggest attendance of the whole conference fringe prog-ramme. Pensions minister Ian McCartney was shouted down as he tried to explain the Government&#39s thinking on the future of pensions. He finished his speech despite not being heard at times over the angry pensioners.

Bickerstaffe told Money Marketing: “It looks as though stakeholder has been used by a number of employers as a way of dumping their occupational schemes. They are saying to new employees that in the future we will administer for you a stakeholder that you are happy to put money in but we do not have to put any in. Employers have a responsibility to society through contributing to their employees&#39 pension schemes.”

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