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This week in Politics

Pension bods from the three political parties must be sick of the sight of each other with three seminar events squeezing themselves in this week before Parliament goes into recess next Tuesday.

A DWP seminar, Westminster briefing and launch of a PPI paper on the Government proposals allowed Work and Pension Secretary John Hutton and pensions minister James Purnell the chance to begin to make good on their promise of genuine consensus.

But Tory Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Hammond half-joked Purnell was running away from opposition arguments after having to make a quick exit from two of the events before listening to Hammond’s concerns.

The PPI continued its well respected scrutiny of Government pension policy with stats showing between one and two thirds of pensioners would be eligible for Pension Credit in 2050 and the net cost of the reforms would be negligible at first and rising to just 0.1 per cent of GDP from 2030.

Its research concluding that the reforms will benefit pensioners on the highest incomes disproportionately compared to the poorest pensioners will raise alarm bells across Parliament.

The effect of means testing on Personal Accounts is still the issue most troubling both the Tories and LibDems, with the potential of wiping out the benefit of the employer contribution, but Purnell said DWP research in the coming months would refute this suggestion.

The massive Government U-turn on Home Information Packs allowed Tory leader David Cameron to land a few punches in this week’s PMQs calling on Blair to ‘mug up’ in this area as he will soon be moving home.

Cameron called on the Prime Minister to explain to the House why ministers had got the scheme so wrong and asked him to confirm if the Government’s Budget proposals for a planning gain supplement are also to be scrapped.

Blair would not confirm this and said the Government would have to wait for the results of the current Hip pilots before announcing further measures of how the scheme will proceed.

Elsewhere representatives of Swedish and Dutch business and trade unions wrote a letter to the FT warning of the perils of the upcoming EU pension portability directive which they say will undermine collective bargaining agreements and push up the administration burden on pension schemes.

It is still hard to work out what the final effect of this directive- due to come into force in July 2008- will be on the industry with various consultations and responses doing the rounds as it is being debated in the European Parliament, but the letter calls for the plans to be seriously reconsidered.

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