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'The lessons from New Labour’s pension reforms for the UK & internationally' (Policy and Practice)

Publication date: Sep 30, 2013 11:57 AM

Start: Dec 12, 2013 05:30 PM
End: Dec 12, 2013 07:00 PM

Location: Medical Sciences 131 AV Hill LT Medical Sciences building, Malet Place, WC1E 6BT

Professor Robert Laslett

robert laslett

Labour’s pension reforms in the wake of the Turner Commission report are widely regarded as one of the strongest examples of evidence-based policy making in the UK. The long forward look, the untangling of state pensions and the bold grasping of the challenges and opportunities of longer working lives were all significant. The nationwide introduction of automatic enrolment in particular – a “nudge” intervention of the kind now espoused by the Coalition and many commentators – was described by the Economist magazine as making this the best reform in decades.
At the same time, there was plenty of political manoeuvring on the way to the Pension Acts.  Favouring older voters was an obvious piece of politics in a country with an increasing grey population.  Pensioners had also been one of the worst off groups under the Conservative governments and Labour wanted to redress the injustice. But of the two powers in the Cabinet, Tony Blair was looking for an appealing new approach compatible with his Third Way while Gordon Brown was committed to careful targeting that saved public money.
What are the lessons to be learnt from this piece of policymaking?  What were the key battles within Government? How were the diverse private-sector interest groups brought and kept on board? How did the evidence drive the decisions? Was the evidence as strong, and the analysis as good, as it seemed? Why has the Coalition carried on and deepened the reforms?
From an international perspective, what lessons did the UK draw from other countries? And what can other countries learn from the UK’s experience?

Robert Laslett is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at UCL and has a portfolio of professional and academic activities in pensions and economic regulation. He became the first Chief Economist for Pensions in the DWP in 2003 and worked there throughout the development and passage of the reforms. He was responsible for the teams that developed much of the evidence base, serviced the Pensions Commission and engaged stakeholders.
Previously he had been a consultant on the economics of financial services, first with John Kay at London Economics and later as head of the London office of Charles River Associates. He worked at the World Bank in Washington DC in the 1980s. He became a CBE in 2010, and retired as Executive Director at the Office of Fair Trading in 2012.

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