Andrew Smith MP took the opportunity to meet and greet the public in his first major conference appe...
Andrew Smith MP took the opportunity to meet and greet the public in his first major conference appearance at the TUC's 'Prospects for Pensions' yesterday, since he started as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
There were no adventurous reforms presented during his speech and he merely made suggestions about the ways in which the pension industry could be improved.
Smith did, however, suggest a change of thinking is needed concerning the general downshifting from work into retirement. He said the government believes it is important to slowly move capable members of the work force into retirement rather than employees suddenly finding themselves drawing their pensions. He urged employers to help persuade employees to stay in the work place longer as a way of dealing with the pension crisis.
"We need to give people real opportunities and incentives to enable people to stay in work longer - where they want to - as well as getting rid of the perverse incentives to retire, even when it might suit people to carry on working, perhaps part-time for longer."
One of his key principles about reform of the pension system is "better informed choices". He said he would like people to be provided with a simpler range of products and insure people receive better information, to encourage and help them make better decisions about investing in their future.
"Changes have to be worthwhile for employees to save, confident in what they will get in return, and easy for employers to contribute. We need a framework that builds partnership in pension provision not a mutual aversion to responsibility."
He remarked that the overall framework of pensions is the right one and praised his predecessor Alistair Darling MP for his efforts in creating a sound base from which to work.
He applauded the partnership between trade unions and business and their achievements through working together for a 'New Deal.
"If there was an area where we needed to build and strengthen partnership for the countries future, it is on these crucial questions of ensuring security in retirement for all."
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