Pru calls for pensions overhaul

Prudential, the UK's largest insurer, yesterday called for a total overhaul of Britain's pension system, including the removal of all tax limits on contributions by individuals and employers.

The company said its proposals were aimed at simplifying the UK's pension system, whether private or occupational, maximising incentives to save and helping ensure that people were able to retire without fear of financial hardship.

Prudential's discussion paper comes amid growing cross-party concern about the cost of providing pensions to the UK's growing army of retired people.

The Pru's proposals were formally assembled by a high-powered working party.

Keith Bedell-Pearce, managing director of Prudential's UK operation, said yesterday: "There is no logical reason why a pension needs to be more complex than a building society account.

"If we can achieve this level of simplicity and make more people understand the need for adequate pension provision, then they will be better able to make an informed decision about their retirement needs."

Among the ideas put forward in the report is that all adults should be free to contribute to approved pensions irrespective of whether they are in work or how much they earn. Contributions from any legitimate source, including legacies or one spouse contributing towards an unemployed partner's pension, would be allowed.

The Pru also proposes that, if a cap is imposed on a maximum that can be paid, it should be set at pounds 6,000 a year. There should be full "carry- forward" so that a total of pounds 240,000 - at today's prices - could be contributed at any point in a person's average 40-year working life.

Existing benefit limits of two-thirds' full pay for occupational pensions should also be removed.