Turner: 'UK pensions still the meanest'

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Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, the Government's pension tsar, conceded yesterday that the UK's pension system would still be amongst the "meanest" in the western world, even if every one of his recommendations for reform were adopted.

Responding to a question from Jim Cousins, a Labour MP, at a Treasury Select Committee hearing yesterday, Lord Turner admitted his package of reforms would create a "very basic system", which would go only some of the way to providing sufficient pensions for all in retirement.

"So even after your proposals, we would still have one of the meanest pension systems in the OECD?" asked Mr Cousins.

"Yes," replied Lord Turner. "We would still have a very basic system. What we would be doing is concentrating that system on trying to do one thing very well ... anti-poverty provision." Lord Turner added that while the UK government spends and would continue to spend one of the lowest proportions of GDP on pensions, the upside was that it did not have the fiscal problems that many other western nations were suffering from due to their over-spending on benefits.

The interview concluded the Treasury Select Committee's short inquiry into Lord Turner's proposal to create a National Pensions Savings Scheme, into which all employees would be automatically enrolled, and which all employers would be compelled to contribute.

The committee's conclusions will be published later this month, ahead of the Government's white paper on pensions reform, expected in June.

Last month, Gordon Brown told journalists that he agreed with "95 per cent of Lord Turner's proposals".