Work and pensions secretary Alan Johnson seems to have contradicted his own boss by issuing qualified support to LibDem proposals for a non-means-tested ‘citizens' pension'.
Tony Blair told Parliament following the publication of the Pensions Commission's report last week that means-testing was in placd to look after pensioners in poverty.
"We have, and we make no apology for this, been trying to focus on the poorest pensioners first," he said.
Johnson, however, told the Commons there was no plan to continue the means-tested Pension Credit indefinitely.
Instead, he finds the notion of a universal pension a "really interesting" idea deserving closer examination.
"I have an absolutely open mind, veering towards being very positive about it," Johnson has said.
The Liberal Democrats' proposal for a "citizen's pension" would see pensions calculated on length of residency instead of National Insurance (NI) contributions.
Women are often disadvantaged by existing NI contributions demands in order to achieve a basis state pension.
This does not mean Johnson necessarily expresses support for a higher level of BSP.
"It's a delusion, mainly because we've got 50% of women who do not even have the national insurance contributions even to get to the level of the basic state pension."
Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat pensions spokesman, says the citizen's pension is "long overdue", and the way forward.
"Finally the government appears to be seeing sense. A citizen's pension would reverse the destruction of the state pension and the relentless spread of mass means testing.”
The Pensions Commission's first report suggests a possible approach to the pension policy is to limit the government's role.
“All citizens will have sufficient income for a dignified retirement via a generous but flat-rate pension, but with no government responsibility for providing pensions linked to earnings, nor for ensuring that private savings are sufficiently large to provide pensions in line with lifetime earnings."
The report takes the cue from a study of pensions systems abroad, particulary in relation to the issue of compulsion versus voluntarism.
It points out the "overt philosophy" undertaken by New Zealand's "citizenship pension" “is not the approach traditionally taken in the majority of rich developed countries. And it is not the UK's starting point today.”
New Zealand's annuity system currently pays out to those 65 and older having lived in the country for a minimum of 10 years since age 20, according to New Zealand financial services guidance website sorted.org.nz.IFAonline
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