Professionals face higher state retirement age

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The Independent Online

Middle-class workers face the prospect of having their state retirement pension delayed, the head of the Government's review into the pensions crisis hinted last night.

Adair Turner, the chairman of the Pensions Commission, said the age at which people collect their pensions may have to rise. But he warned against a one-size-fits-all retirement age because of differences in life expectancy. On average, professionals live four years longer beyond 65 than unskilled manual workers.

Mr Turner said: "Various people have proposed that we should increase the state pension age ... which is undoubtedly the direction that we will in the long-term have to look towards. But we would do that in a way sensitive to the fact that some people don't enjoy the same increases in life expectancy."

Mr Turner, whose report on the future of the pensions system will be published this year, also floated the idea of compulsory savings to ensure all pensioners enjoyed a decent income. He denied reports that he was considering different retirement ages for graduates and non-graduates.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for pensions, warned: "There is a growing fault line between Gordon Brown on the one hand and Tony Blair and David Blunkett on the other.

"The Chancellor appears in no hurry to dismantle the means-tested mess of a pensions system ... forcing the country to endure the current crisis for some years to come."

Mr Brown said any radical changes to the pensions system could be delayed until after the next general election. He told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme: "Tony Blair and I ...thought that if there were the sort of changes that some people have talked about that would require another period of consultation that may lead into the next parliament."

Government sources denied any rift between Mr Brown and Mr Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, over the timing of the reforms.