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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 November 2005, 14:01 GMT
Brown has 'no veto' on pensions
Secretary for Work and Pensions John Hutton
Mr Hutton wants a 'grown-up debate' on pensions
Suggestions that the chancellor has a veto over aspects of any changes to the pensions system have been rejected by the work and pensions secretary.

John Hutton said decisions would be taken only after "a grown-up, mature debate", in an interview on GMTV.

Gordon Brown has reportedly queried part of the Turner report on the future of pensions, due out on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Downing Street has denied the report will be used to stop a deal letting public employees retire at 60.

Pension findings

Reports that it would be used as justification for shelving the arrangement came in the Sunday Times.

But the prime minister's spokesman said there was no question of revisiting the deal at the moment.

Ahead of the release of Lord Turner's findings, Gordon Brown has reportedly queried plans to link pensions to earnings and raise the state pension age.

We are not going to take any risks with public finances - what emerges has to be a set of proposals the country can afford
John Hutton
Work and Pensions Secretary

It is believed he opposes the reports predicted suggestion that the state pension age be raised to 67, to pay for restoration of a link between pensions and earnings.

Mr Hutton stressed the chancellor was responsible for public finances and would play an instrumental role in the debate.

But he added: "These are decisions for the government as a whole to take and that is quite clear.

'Sustainable' plan

"There will be a debate within government over the next few months about how we can structure these proposals.

"But... we are not going to take any risks with public finances and what emerges has to be a set of proposals the country can afford and are sustainable over the long term."

He described the reported leaking of a letter from Mr Brown to Lord Turner as "a complete distraction" from the main issue of the future of pensions and said he would not get into "the tittle-tattle of that".

But he agreed the leak should be looked into.

Leak questions

Interviewed on Sky News, the Prime Minister was asked who was responsible for leaking the memo and whether it was his close aide Matthew Taylor.

"I haven't the faintest idea," he said.

On whether anyone at Downing Street was responsible, he said: "I can say as far as I'm aware it wasn't, no."

Pressed again on whether it was Mr Taylor, he said: "I have no doubt at all that it was not Matthew, and I'm sure that he would not do such a thing."

Conservative leadership candidate, David Cameron, said the Government was "making a complete mess" of reforming pensions.

He told Sky News raising the state pension age to 67 should be considered.

Business worries

CBI director general Sir Digby Jones said he feared trade unions would campaign for bosses to be forced to increase employer contributions to pension funds.

That would become a "tax on jobs" he said, that would damage smaller firms.

The Pensions Commission, headed by former Confederation of British Industry boss Lord Adair Turner, is intended to provide a long-term solution to Britain's looming pensions crisis.


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