By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box
Sir Malcolm's comments came after a proposal for a Citizens Pension
One of the most senior candidates for leadership of the Conservative Party has told the BBC that raising the state pension age "has to be looked at".
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind was asked by BBC Radio 4's Money Box if he would keep the state pension age at 65.
"Not necessarily," he replied. "I think it has to be looked at. I am not suggesting we can simply ignore the demographic changes and wider issues of that kind."
He said the Conservatives were waiting to consider the final report of the Pensions Commission before developing their post-election policy on the state pension, and that would be a matter for the new leader and his shadow cabinet.
When asked if he would look at raising the state pension age if he won the leadership race he responded:
"I have indicated to you what my own preference is.
"At this point I certainly don't exclude that that may be a necessary part of the process."
Sir Malcolm was commenting on a recently published proposal to replace the existing state pension with a Citizens Pension of £109 a week, paid to everyone who had lived in the UK for 10 out of the previous 20 years.
"The most difficult problem with their proposal is that it is non-contributory," Sir Malcolm said.
"As I understand it, everyone would automatically be entitled to a pension, regardless of whether they had made any contribution themselves during their working life."
Sir Malcolm's words echo those of his political opponent, Work and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett.
In the summer, Mr Blunkett told a conference of pensioners in Sheffield: "We can't give people a pension automatically. I think people really would blow at that."
In a further sign of cross-party consensus Mr Blunkett told the BBC's Politics Show a week ago that the US was committed to raising the pension age to 67 over 20 years, adding "that's the kind of debate we'll be having".
BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 24 September, 2005, at 1204 BST.
The programme was repeated on Sunday, 25 September, 2005 at 2102 BST.