Row as Labour minister joins 'pension cuts' body

John Hutton, a former Labour Cabinet minister, has been appointed to head a commission that will look for ways to cut the cost of pensions for public sector workers.

The choice of the former Work and Pensions Secretary is a sign of the Government's anxiety to take some of the political sting out of the highly contentious issue of the pensions paid to former public employees, which are relatively more generous than most of the pensions for people who have worked in the private sector.

A report last week from the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that the total paid out annually in pensions to former public employees could more than double in than four years, to £9bn. Pension rights already accrued by public workers will be respected, but Mr Hutton's commission will suggest reforms that will make public sector pensions "sustainable" in the long run.

This follows a warning last week from the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, that it would be "unfair" to expect private-sector workers who had seen their pensions schemes hit "to keep paying their taxes into unreformed gold-plated public sector pension pots".

Announcing the appointment, George Osborne, the chancellor, told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "He is a man with real intelligence and knowledge in this area. I think he's going to bring a cross-party perspective to what is a national problem and means that this is not going to be done a partisan basis.

"Having John Hutton on board chairing this independent Pensions Commission, will mean that we can approach this issue of public sector pensions in a fair and equitable way."

There were appeals not to make retired public employees bear the cost of the recession. Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: "Any objective look at public sector pensions will find they are affordable and sustainable. While no pension scheme can be set in stone forever, the real problem in Britain is the collapse of private sector pensions."

While Mr Hutton's appointment was welcomed by the Tories, it produced an explosion of rage from John Prescott, the former deputy Prime Minister, about ex-Labour ministers who "collaborate" with the new regime. Mr Prescott opened fire on his blog yesterday at Mr Hutton, who quit the Commons at the election, and the Labour MPs Kate Hoey, sport adviser to the London mayor, Boris Johnson, and Frank Field, heading a Government inquiry into poverty.

Mr Prescott wrote: "I was surprised to see Lib Dems used by Thatcherites like Cameron and Osborne to provide cover in the Treasury for their heartless programme of cuts. But that pales into insignificance now Labour ministers – Labour ministers – have decided to collaborate. They've turned a Con-Lib Government to a ConLibLab one and made themselves human shields for the most savage and heartless Tory policies in 20 years. Policies that will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest – the very people Labour was founded to protect. I would ask if they can live with their conscience but I'd question whether they had one."

Alistair Darling, the former chancellor, had "no problem" with the principle of a commission to look at public sector pensions – and Mr Hutton would ensure it was independent. "What I do have a problem with is a Government that I think is ideologically driven is using the present circumstances as a cover for what they would have done anyway, using the Liberals to front it all up," he added, speaking on the BBC's Politics Show.

Ed Balls, a contender for the Labour leadership, said: "Public sector workers across the country will be deeply concerned to have a review of their pensions sprung upon them on a Sunday morning – without proper consultation. They will be particularly worried given the comments by David Cameron and Nick Clegg in recent days about their desire for cuts to public sector pensions. The Government must make clear that the findings have not been pre-empted."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...