Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown's Team Pour Scorn on Turner's Pension Plan Figures

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown's Team Pour Scorn on Turner's Pension Plan Figures

Article excerpt


GORDON BROWN is preparing to hit back in the pensions row by accusing Lord Turner of giving misleading costs in his reform blueprint.

The Chancellor is challenging a series of figures in the Turner Commission report, the Evening Standard has learned.

He believes the total cost to taxpayers of the Turner plans could be five times higher than the peer has claimed.

Altogether, Treasury officials calculate, the plans would cost the state about [pounds sterling]18billion to [pounds sterling]20 billion a year by 2020 - compared with the Turner estimates of between [pounds sterling]1.5 billion and [pounds sterling]4.5 billion, depending on which options are chosen.

If Mr Brown is right, the Turner plan would load 5p on income tax and dominate public spending decisions for the next two decades. It would also limit the room enjoyed by a next generation of Labour ministers to invest in public services.

However, Mr Brown was at loggerheads with Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton, who last night insisted the Turner plan was affordable. "If the figures are right, then this is an affordable package," said Mr Hutton, who suggested the pensions revolution might cost as little as [pounds sterling]2 billion. "But that is exactly the premise that we have got to test," he told BBC2's Newsnight.

The Cabinet was today meeting for the first time since Lord Turner's report, with Mr Brown fighting attempts to isolate him on the key question of whether his rapid expansion of means-tested benefits for the elderly should be halted.

In a fresh twist, sources said Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne was planning to meet his Liberal Democrat rival Vince Cable to co-operate on the issue and put pressure on the Chancellor to surrender in his refusal to link future pension rises with earnings. …

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