Lord Hutton's exposure of the deceit that appears to be rife in the government and the media shows just how far these two entities are willing to go to dupe us. We can no longer trust anything we read about or hear from politicians or their advisers, nor can we trust a media that just as cynically misinterprets, embellishes and exploits the spin that is fed to them.
Even this responsible magazine isn't entirely squeaky clean. The leader and feature and on pension schemes in the 1 August issue (pages 3 and 18) unquestioningly repeat the government's anti-employer spin about final salary pension schemes. No government or politician wants to be the one to admit that our state and private pensions are fast approaching meltdown and that everybody's pension will fall short of expectations.
It is much easier for the government and its spinners to find a scapegoat to divert attention and so delay the whole issue until after the next election. Particularly a standard media scapegoat like those responsible employers who voluntarily started their final salary pension arrangements only to be mis-sold company schemes by the insurance industry, but are too discrete to complain.
These new regulations leave us with no final salary schemes and no employers.
Cunning plan, Mr Smith
There are several real reasons for the collapse of the final salary pension scheme:
Neither government nor the pensions or insurance industries can be trusted any longer to manage our retirement savings and pensions. We need an entirely new pensions regime that omits insurance companies, government and employers.
It must be insurance-free – in other words, no annuities, no reference to age or length of service and no trustees. We need simple retirement savings plans that are as easy to purchase and track as an ISA or building society savings bond. The only way to achieve such a drastic change is to take the whole pensions debate out of the political arena. I suggested to Andrew Smith in January that he set up a Rethinking Pensions group, along similar lines to Sir John Egan's Rethinking Construction. Such a group could write the specification of the ideal state and private pension and then the financial services industry, partnering with the Treasury, could be invited to implement it.
Colin Harding is chairman of Bournemouth-based contractor George & Harding.