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BeeHive  >  BeeLines  >  Labour Party conference

Labour Party conference

Well Iím just back from the Labour Party conference where Alan Pickering and I shared a fringe platform with Malcolm Wicks, the current Pensions Minister yesterday. We had a fairly wide-ranging debate on various pension issues, but primarily on the question of whether pensions can ever be made intrinsically suitable for all in the workforce.

Obviously that subject was a good one as I had gone to the conference armed with the results of our first BeeHive poll on just that topic. Weíd closed the poll down that morning with over 1000 people having voted and with 95% agreeing that the way means-tested benefits are constructed for existing pensioners acts as a real disincentive to saving for those in the workforce. Thanks to all of you who contributed to that poll.

I think itís fair to say that a statistic like that, thrown into this kind of open debate, is a bit of a bombshell. It certainly went down well with the many journalists in the audience and I hope it rocked the earnest certainties of the many party activists who had turned up to hear that all is well on the pensions front. Iím fairly sure weíll get some good press coverage on this first attempt weíve had at getting the views of BeeHive regulars over to a more general audience. In case we donít get coverage in the national press on this, though, weíll also be putting out a press release later on today when I get back from the Money Marketing Live do up in Manchester. In fact Iíve got to get going to catch the train at Euston in about ten minutes (Iím getting moaned at already), but before I go I just wanted to let you know that weíll be changing the question on the home page of the BeeHive today and getting another vote underway.

Many of you have e-mailed in asking whether the Government is likely to be letting people know about the retrospective nature of the tax changes coming in on A-Day. For many well-heeled people in UK plc there is a very real threat that their existing pension pots could be taxed retrospectively at 55% if they donít watch out - Iím sure youíve read what Iíve said about this before, not least in the mother of all BeeLines I put out on scheme audits a couple of weeks (or was it light years?) ago.

Government policy (if thatís the right word) on this appears to be something along the lines of ďwell, there arenít many of them and theyíre well-off and pretty well advised anyway, so thereís no need to warn themĒ, or something like that. But Iím not so sure on any of those counts. Weíve never had retrospective pension tax laws before and it seems only polite to me that people who could be affected should be given a nod before they get hit by it. I mean, for all the Government know these guys are busy doing other things than reading about pensions all day long and may not have heard about the changes. Stranger things have happened. Anyway, Iíd like to know what BeeLiners think about this, so if youíd like to get involved in the voting thing again just follow the link here if youíve got a minute and maybe itíll be something we can raise a little more general awareness on soon.

Iím going to have to stop writing in a minute (Iím just being screamed at, literally, as Iím writing this last bit and looking for my jacket), but I canít close without mentioning the inaugural address to yesterdayís conference of our latest Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. It appears that new Government policy was announced in that speech (if I understood it correctly) in that they are considering Ďtrainingí union officials to give Ďadviceí on pensions to people in the workplace. Now Iím sure youíll probably be able to guess at what I think about that, and itís not just that weíve got enough unfinished ideas knocking around in the Pensions Bill as it is without needing any more. If this turns out to be serious, then Iíll return to it in later BeeLines - Iím going to carefully read the text of the speech on the train in a minute - always assuming I catch it, of course, and judging by the almighty row going on outside my office at the moment no-one else seems to think I will...

Steve Bee
28 September 2004

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