The UK government's secretary of state for work and pensions, John Hutton, has revealed that the much-awaited white paper outlining planned reforms of the pensions system will be published 'by the end of the month'.
Mr Hutton made the admission during a House of Commons debate on pensions. He was also pressed on the recent report by the parliamentary ombudsman, which concluded that the government was guilty of maladministration by reassuring several thousand pensioners that their occupational pension schemes would be safe following the collapse of their companies. In the event, some 85,000 people were denied their expected level of pension provision.
Responding to a question from the MP for Pendle, Mr Hutton said: The government’s view is that there was no evidence for her finding of maladministration and I set out in my statement in the House the reasons why I came to that view. I will set out in greater detail the argument that underpins that essential assumption. I can certainly say that we are giving careful consideration to whether we can provide more financial assistance to people who are caught up in those situations.
On the Turner report, Mr Hutton appeared to hint at a general acceptance of the reform package the Pensions Commission put forward.
Affordability, however, is a fundamental issue that must be addressed by not just the present government but successive governments when it comes to long-term pensions reform. It would be wrong to assume that there are no affordability issues; Turner himself recognized that in his report, Mr Hutton cautioned.
Mr Hutton went on to say: I believe that if we can find the basis for long-term consensus on pensions reform – in my view, the Turner analysis is broadly right – we shall have an enormous prize within our grasp, and I hope that there will be consensus on the proposals that we shall present shortly.