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Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK
Hain becomes pensions secretary
Peter Hain
Peter Hain faces tough challenges
Peter Hain has been confirmed as the new work and pensions secretary.

Mr Hain will succeed John Hutton who has overseen a major shake-up of the state pension system.

Key reforms included a gradual increase in the state pension age to 68 and a restoration of the link between earnings and the state pension level.

Mr Hain faces major challenges such as reform of the benefits system and whether to boost compensation to people who have lost their pensions.

Since 1997 about 125,000 people are estimated to have lost all or part of their pension as a result of their employer going bust.

The Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) has been set up by the government to compensate these people.

However, the FAS has been criticised by pension campaigners for being too bureaucratic and not paying out enough.

Campaigners and opposition parties have called for an urgent overhaul of the FAS but the government has said this would be too expensive.

Anti-apartheid campaigner

Mr Hain was born in Nairobi and brought up in South Africa. He was educated at Pretoria Boys High School, the University of London and Sussex University.

He was a prominent anti-apartheid campaigner in the 1970s. He entered the Commons following a by-election in 1991.

He has held several ministerial posts at the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Most recently he has doubled-up as Northern Ireland and Welsh Secretary, and he was recently defeated in the Labour party's deputy leadership election.

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