David Prosser: Nest set to nurture saving for old age

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The Independent Online

Outlook Good luck to Lawrence Churchill, hired yesterday as chairman of Nest (the National Employment Savings Trust). For those of you unacquainted with this carefully branded organisation, it is the agency charged with delivering and then running personal accounts – the new workplace pension scheme due for national launch in 2012.

Mr Churchill's appointment is another step in the development of this scheme, which offers a genuine opportunity to increase the savings that millions of people make for old age. All employers will have to contribute to Nest, and employees will be enrolled automatically.

It would have been easy for the business community to press for a delay in the launch of the scheme, given that it will mean extra costs for employers. To their credit, such calls have been muted and the Government has pressed ahead with the timetable for Nest's introduction.

Quite right too. While there has been disquiet that the launch of Nest might damage existing occupational pension provision – if employers already contributing to schemes choose to level down to the minimum Nest level – in totality, occupational pension coverage will be hugely expanded.

Happily, too, reforms to the state pension system, without which the launch of Nest would be less helpful, are also proceeding as scheduled. This means low-income families will be able to participate in Nest without the fear they are simply doing themselves out of means-tested benefits.

When Adair Turner presented the findings of his Pension Commission five years ago, there was widespread concern that ministers would chicken out of implementing the recommendations in full. Those fears now look unfounded.

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