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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Minister reassures on pension age
Alan Johnson, MP
Alan Johnson said people should be free to work beyond 70
The age at which people first qualify for a state pension will not be raised beyond 65, the work and pensions minister has told Labour delegates.

Alan Johnson also told his party's conference those who wanted to work beyond 70 would not be prevented.

But Mr Johnson later said the government planned to give a lump sum or higher payments to those who take their state pensions later in life.

He also urged workers to avoid a "head in the sand" approach to pensions.

Mr Johnson warned that people needed to save more or work longer if they were to be "secure in retirement".

He also announced a fund to train union representatives to give workplace advice on pensions.

'Gross injustice'

"We have to put in place measures that will restore confidence and encourage people to save, but we also need to end the 'head in the sand culture' and that's not something government can do alone," he said at the Brighton conference.

"I want to see more companies offering clear, high quality information or automatically enrolling workers into pension schemes so that individuals do not lose what is effectively part of their pay because of inertia or confusion."

He warned: "This challenge could become a crisis in 15 to 20 years if we fail to address the prospect of fewer people in work supporting more people in retirement."

General secretary of the GMB union Kevin Curran said things would be better when the boards of trustees controlling workplace pensions schemes were made up of 50% employees as the government has pledged.

But he also urged the government to bring in an element of compulsion in workplace schemes so that every worker had access to a pension.

Earlier chancellor Gordon Brown pledged to safeguard workplace pensions.

In his speech to the conference he said: "We will work with the unions to do what it takes to tackle the gross injustice of workers who through no fault of their own find their pensions have been destroyed.

"We will do what it takes to make sure that all workers can have security and dignity in retirement."


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