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The impact of Turner

The minister of state for pension reform Stephen Timms has called for suggested alternatives to the Turner Commission’s recommendation for a National Pensions Savings Scheme.

With a new name for his job as pensions minister, Timms wants some ideas by February.

He insists, in a speech to the Association of British Insurers, that he accepts the broad framework of Turner and says the proposals are the basis for debate. But he is particularly interested in the industry’s views of personal accounts.

No doubt, many in the industry will rise to the task and suggest a way forward.

But it is very difficult not to see some weariness creeping into the debate after so many years and so many schemes and reports. Some advisers may be muttering that did not take long for at least one plank of Turner to be kicked into the long grass.

As a result, GPPs miss their meltdown and jobs are saved, which is good news for the financial services industry.

Perhaps advice gets a shout again as well. But the industry should remember that the minister who is asking for industry suggestions, Stephen Timms, was one of the architects of the 1 per cent pension world.

But without the central scheme, what are we left with from Turner but changes to the state pension infrastructure and retirement ages? There is even a suggested renegotiation of the public sector pension deal. These suggestions will be the subject of party and Cabinet debate for years.

So much depends on the bigger political landscape – when and if Gordon Brown takes over and if the Conservatives mount a serious challenge to Labour.

The instincts of this newspaper are that Turner will have an impact but probably not in any way recognisable from his report. It may even help raise savings levels but not if there is massive damage done to the savings industry in the process.

As for advisers, we suggest that you should worry but not too much. The country may fail to set its pension house in order but IFAs should simply do their best to make sure that their clients do get their pension position straight.

Let the politicians continue arguing in the meantime.


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