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Where’s the proof on pensions?

A couple of months back, the Conservative pension spokesman Nigel Waterson warned that the launch of personal accounts must not become a shambles like Terminal Five.

Assumptions about the accounts are being pulled apart by some commentators, with Ned Cazalet suggesting many savers would be better putting their money in a teapot.

Means-testing and miserable returns are a massive problem. Cazalet says any regulated business offering them would fall foul of the FSA and has provided calculations. Money Marketing believes that rather than dismissing this view and the views of other industry experts, the Government should tackle these numbers head on and prove Cazalet wrong – if it can.

We would also emphasise that by proof we mean proof, not some pointless PR victory.

That means that the study on means-testing and its impact on personal accounts needs to be a serious one that is debated and not manipulated.

A system that people can opt out of rather than opt into, or as it is known, soft compulsion, has some appeal in terms of getting more people to save. Studies suggest that take-up will be higher but it relies on confidence or it will fall apart.

On personal accounts, the Government should do the sums and prove the case or abandon the whole thing and start again. That is, of course, a message for the current Government in the next couple of years.

There is a distinct possibility that it will be a Conservative Government that ushers in personal accounts. We know a Conservative Government may seek to amend aspects of the accounts although for the moment, the Tories say they will preserve the basic structure.

All three main parties still say there is a consensus on the reforms although we cannot help thinking the definition of consensus in this instance is remarkably flexible.

Money Marketing wonders if we are not getting close to another T5 moment. To use another phrase, we may be facing another pension white elephant and that is the last thing savers need.

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A shaw thing

Annie Shaw is a freelance financial journalist
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