PM wants radical reform of pensions

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR has ordered the Government's plans for reforming pensions to be delayed for another six months after rejecting draft plans for not being radical enough.

John Denham, the pensions minister, was told after a meeting at Downing Street to go away and produce more far- reaching plans with Alistair Darling, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Mr Denham had proposed that people would be encouraged to take out "stakeholder" top-up pensions, but Downing Street is keen to see more compulsion on future pensioners to take out private pension schemes to enhance the state pension.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, is also concerned at the rising cost of the pensions proposals to be announced in a Green Paper. Mr Darling's role will be to ensure that a tight spending control is kept on the proposals.

Mr Blair also handed Mr Denham's role in charge of tackling social security fraud to Frank Field, the social security minister, who, as chairman of a Commons select committee, mounted a sustained campaign for action against fraud under the last government.

The Conservatives are poised to steel a march on the Government by announcing that they have ditched their past plans for effectively converting the state pension into private schemes.

Their social security spokesman, Iain Duncan Smith, will announce that the Tories are now committed to preserving the state pension and increasing it in line with inflation without means-testing.

Some Labour MPs last night said the Tories should be taken seriously by ministers. "There are millions of pensioners who could vote for a proper state pension," said one Labour MP.

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