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This week in Pensions

What a week for pensions. Not even pictures of John Prescott playing croquet in the garden of his grace and favour home could stop pensions stories from getting top billing in the papers last week.

Firstly the white paper, then ex-wives suing husbands for pension pots, the European Court of Human Rights and worshippers being asked to cover clergymen’s pensions shortfalls.

The Government revealed its white paper on pension reform last week which will be the biggest shake-up in UK pensions for over a decade, or perhaps in the last fifty years.

A week of leaks may have ruined some surprises but overall this is the clearest indication that the Government is serious about pensions reform. Or is it?

Irwin Mitchell head of pensions Anne Taylor says: ‘The Government has reserved the right to delay implementation to the end of the next parliamentary term if the reforms are not deemed affordable and one has to wonder whether some of these reforms will get through at all.’

A major factor of the white paper includes a link between the basic state pension and earnings to be restored but the Government has revealed only scant details on NPSS.

The rise of BSP in-line with earnings rather than prices will start from 2012 ‘subject to affordability and the fiscal position’. Lord Turner’s NPSS has received a provisional nod from the Government. The paper says there could be an annual management charge of 0.3 per cent on what it is calling a national personal accounts scheme ‘in the long run’ but is yet to commit to specifics.

The white paper does not tackle the issue of advice within NPAS but does say ‘a new national personal accounts scheme will require both a high-level awareness-raising campaign and the provision of specific information and support’.

This is a little vague, as expected, but perhaps there is still room for more lobbying on this. Aifa director general Chris Cummings certainly think so. He said: ‘Bodies we have spoken to are becoming a lot more engaged in the debate about advice within NPSS.’

The FSA was supposed to come to an agreement on RU64 last week and many had expected the board to agree to scrap the unpopular rule. But the white paper, and several unhappy civil servants put a stop to this.

While Which? principal policy adviser Mick McAteer sees this as a victory for consumers, the ABI is not so happy. ABI director of life and pensions Chris Kenny says: ‘RU64 is bad for consumers because it has strangled the pensions market and added to the savings gap. The FSA recognised this problem last year, but now refuses to act.’

Over in Europe, the Court of Human Rights has ruled that a woman, originally born a man, who was told she would have to wait until 65 until she received her state pension was a victim of a breach of human rights.

Lastly the Church of England’s pensions board is expressing concern that it needs an extra 10.4m a year to guarantee clergy pensions. When the collection tray comes round, try and dig deep.

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