The UK work and pensions minister John Hutton has told the House of Commons that a rise in the standard retirement age is unavoidable, and will occur before 2020.

The minister’s comments, reported by the Scotsman newspaper, came in a debate in parliament on pensions policy, and indicate that the government is seriously contemplating implementing the reforms put forward by the Turner Report earlier than envisaged.

However some observers believe that Mr Hutton’s views will anger chancellor Gordon Brown, who is determined to retain direct control over pension policy. But during the debate, Mr Hutton said it was absolutely right that MPs should play a role in forming policy. A White Paper will be released on pensions in the spring.

It is simply not possible to have this debate about affordability without seriously considering an increase in the state pension age, the newspaper reported Mr Hutton as saying. My view is that some increase from 2020 is inevitable, but that we should consider very carefully all the options.

Opposition parties reacted to the comments by suggesting that they mark a definite change in government policy, and reflect the government’s belated attempts to tackle an approaching cash crunch over pensions.