Pensions minister Angela Eagle was forced to defended the government's anti-forestalling regulations after Robin Ellison said they will cause the tragic disintegration of occupational pensions.
Speaking at a keynote session at the Professional Pensions Show, Ellison, a former National Association of Pension Funds chairman, said the regulations were "causing havoc in the industry".
He told the minister the industry was struggling with the regulations and they were a complicated mistake after hard fought pension simplification.
Eagle said: "The anti-forestalling regulations are complex because the tax regime is complex.
"If you look at the tax privileges that come with pension saving, and the amount of money that is given in those, and then you look at how it is distributed up the income stream you see 25% of the billions of pounds that are allowed because of tax privileges for pension saving - £6.1bn goes to the top 1.5%."
However, Ellison said that was "not true". He challenged Eagle over whether it would have been easier and "less confrontational" to raise income tax on receipt of pensions.
He added: "That collective interest which used to exist in pensions - between the high paid and the lower paid - has disintegrated. That is a tragedy." Eagle said she did "not accept that analysis at all".
She explained: "DB reached its peak in the 1960s and has been in decline ever since. I am not going to sit here and say that complexity has not played a part but I do not accept for a minute that someone who is earning a very good salary indeed is suddenly going to think ‘I am not going to provide any pension whatsoever for my lower paid staff because I do not like my tax breaks'.
"There has to be an acceptance following a credit crunch that those at the top of the pay scales have to assist in dealing with the aftermath of it."
Reasons to be cheerful
Total investment reaches £9m
Medium to long-term capital growth