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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 November 2005, 15:29 GMT
Despair at DWP 'revolving door'
By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

John Hutton, New Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
John Hutton will be the sixth pensions secretary in eight years

Britain's pension funds are concerned about the "revolving door" at top of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with the resignation of Secretary of State David Blunkett.

His replacement, John Hutton, is the sixth Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in eight years; three of them have been appointed in the last 15 months.

Christine Farnish, Chief Executive of the National Association of Pension Funds, whose members control nearly 700bn of pension savings, told BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme: "It is most unfortunate.

"Some of our members are clearly in despair that we have yet another new person who has to get a grip quickly of an incredibly complicated and difficult agenda.

Everyone is now expecting the government to respond by coming forward with some robust and long lasting reform proposals
Christine Farnish, NAPF
"It's so easy to do damage in pensions as we've seen over the years by not looking far enough ahead and not understanding the knock-on effects of what they're doing".

She said the change has come at a difficult time, with a major report from the Pensions Commission due at the end of the month.

"Everyone is now expecting the government to respond by coming forward with some robust and long lasting reform proposals.

"And he's got to get his head round that very quickly. We have a lifetime opportunity to make lasting changes and we need someone with the guts to do that."

Controversial reforms

BBC Political Correspondent Sean Curran told the programme that some top politicians see the job as a poisoned chalice.

"It is a big, difficult job. There were rumours that other ministers had been approached.

Tony Blair is determined to drive through these controversial reforms and has chosen someone he can rely on
Sean Curran, BBC News
And the fact that there has been this revolving door leads to suggestions from some MPs that it is a job that actually senior ministers don't want."

But he said John Hutton was a man to get things done.

"The big message is that Tony Blair is determined to drive through these controversial reforms and has chosen someone he can rely on, who will focus on Tony Blair's reform agenda.

"I would have thought by going for someone like Mr Hutton, who is seen as a safe pair of hands, this is a long term appointment and Blair was signalling that this person is going to be there at least as long as he is there."

Christine Farnish hopes that is true. "We've go to be concerned about pensions," she said.

The starting place is a better state pension for all achieved through a universal single simple pension for everyone at state pension age and that ought to be easily affordable in future."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 5 November, 2005, at 1204 GMT.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 6 November, 2005, at 2102 GMT.

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SEE ALSO:
No benefit 'cuts agenda' - Hutton
05 Nov 05 |  UK Politics
Hutton chosen to replace Blunkett
02 Nov 05 |  UK Politics
Profile: John Hutton
03 Nov 05 |  UK Politics


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