LORD Taylor's report on UK pension reform published yesterday had been widely trailed in advance so there were not many surprises in it. Even so, younger people reading it may have been shocked to realise that under its provisions their entitlement to a state pension will be delayed to at least age 67 within twenty-four years. Scanning the recommendations of the report it is not difficult to understand why Gordon Brown was annoyed by its prescriptive character when he got a sneak preview of it last week. Lord Turner's Commission was asked to provide food for thought for an informed debate about pension reform but its report goes much further than that and actually makes a number of quite specific proposals for change which ultimately will be matters falling within the responsibility of the government of the day. So it was interesting that Tony Blair's references to the report in the House of Commons yesterday were moderate in tone and that he accepted its basic premise that in future the state pension should be more generous and simpler in character.

The proposal that people should work longer than at present before becoming eligible for the state pension has naturally attracted the greatest attention. It may make sense actuarily speaking but it has to be set against the background that few employers want older workers and that manual workers, who may most need the pension, are the least able to carry on working as they grow older. A proposal that will get wide support is that people with caring responsibilities and interrupted work records should not automatically be disadvantaged as they are by the present system. Women, in particular, will benefit from any change of this kind. The bottom line, of course, is that with an ageing population reform to state pension provision is essential if more and more people are not to find themselves with inadequate state support when their working life is over. The debate on how the necessary reform can be financed and administered will be long and complex with one of the key issues being Gordon Brown's preference for means-tested pension credits which Lord Turner believes are a disincentive to individual saving.


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