DAVID WILLETTS, shadow trade and industry secretary, last night called on the government to "socialise" part of the pensions burden for business or risk the prospect of zombie companies struggling to meet payments to former workers, says the Guardian.
In what he stressed was a personal contribution to the debate, he proposed Britain should follow the example of Japan and allow companies to pay the government to take over responsibility for at least £50bn of their accumulated pension obligations, says the paper. The State would accept an up-front payment from firms which wanted to rid themselves of the need to pay the contracted-out guaranteed minimum pension - the corporate version of the state second pension - which would come from government coffers.
With the report on individual pensions from Adair Turner out next month, Willetts said it was vital to look at the problems being faced by business. The burden of accumulated pension deficits was "the elephant in the living room".
STANDARD LIFE yesterday opened the starting stalls for what could be the biggest London flotation in five years, according the Daily Telegraph. .
Directors of Europe's biggest mutual insurer met on Sunday night to give their approval to the plans which will see 2.4m Britons eligible for windfalls averaging between £500 and £1,000, says
Analysts believe Standard could be valued at up to £7bn when it comes to market next year.
Chairman Sir Brian Stewart said: "The board continues to believe that demutualisation and flotation is the best way forward and in the best interests of members, customers and the company."
HOUSE PRICES edged higher last month as renewed buyer confidence reversed the recent downward trend, according to the property website Rightmove, says the Scotsman.
It reported the average asking price of properties put on sale between September and October rose 0.5% on the previous month.
But the website reported wide regional variations, with the market in London and the south-east showing the biggest gains, while prices in the West Midlands, East Anglia and Wales continued to fall.
NEW LAWS against age discrimination could unintentionally lead to fewer Britons working beyond the official retirement age and damage the campaign to keep older people economically active, warn employers' groups, according to the Financial Times.
In final submissions to the government's consultation on laws against discrimination on the grounds of age, business groups have called for urgent changes to protect employers from a deluge of tribunal cases.
The Conferderation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce, and the Employers Forum on Age have all warned the government that under the draft regulations, which they say are complex and confusing, companies will become less likely to allow some people to work beyond 65 for fear of legal challenges from their colleagues.
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