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Tories pile pension pressure on Brown

The Conservatives this week tabled an unprecedented motion of no confidence in Gordon Brown over his handling of occupational pensions.

The Tories took the step in an Opposition Day debate to increase the pressure on the Chancellor over the impact he has had on pensions.

Tory Shadow Chancellor George Osborne told the House of Commons the motion was needed for four reasons – the tax raid on pensions in 1997, the effects of this over the last decade, the behaviour towards the 125,000 victims of occupational pension scheme wind-ups and the way that Brown tried to cover up the effects of the raid.

Osborne focused on the so-called “Grosvenor House gang” who formulated the policy at meetings at the Park lane hotel. The group comprised Brown, his former press secretary Charlie Whelan, current Treasury Economic Secretary Ed Balls and former paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson plus consultants from Arthur Andersen.

Brown rejected the charges, saying he told the House what he was doing at the time and why he was doing it and that the move increased share prices for a time after 1997.

He said he stood by the decision due to the long-term effects on investment and claimed the Opposition’s heavy focus on the issue showed up their own policy deficiencies.

Brown’s embarrassment was heightened after the recent revelation that Treasury minister at the time, Lord Simon of Highbury, warned Brown of the problems that would be caused.

Osborne says: “McCavity has been dragged here kicking and screaming. For 10 years, he has twisted and turned and done everything possible to duck his responsibility and conceal the truth. Now is time for him to stand up, face the music and say he is sorry.”

LibDem Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable said he supported the motion but accused Osborne of a “Punch and Judy show” by over-emphasising the effect that the move has had on the economy.

Former Tory Chancellor Ken Clarke said: “Never again should pensions be used as an easy source of revenue.”

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