Just how difficult is it for modern think tanks to think the unthinkable? Very, if the background to “A New Contract for Retirement,” a report published today by the left-inclined Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), is anything to go by. Since the report was paid for by Abbey National, The Co-Operative Insurance Society, Legal and General, Lifetime Care, Scottish Equitable and JP Morgan Investor Services, its conclusion that the government has adopted a mistaken approach to the reform of pension provision looks somewhat pre-ordained.
Irrespective of whether government policy is mistaken or not, all of these companies have much to lose from a continuation of present policy and much to gain from an alteration in course. So it is no surprise to read that the IPPR advocates a change of direction. “IPPR’s task has been to map and analyse the approach to pensions and long-term care policy under Labour,” says a press release. “Various criticisms have been leveled at the government over its retirement strategy and IPPR has looked to assess whether these are well founded. By dispelling myths, clarifying objectives and exploring alternative policy options, “A New Contract for Retirement” has investigated whether the government’s current settlement should continue to be pursued or whether a change of direction is necessary. IPPR have firmly concluded the latter.”
As Richard Brooks, the co-author of the report, admits: “A New Contract for Retirement could not have been written without support from JPMorgan and our other partners.” No wonder Mark Tennant, senior vice president, JP Morgan Investor Services, was able to welcome the report so enthusiastically. “JPMorgan was delighted to contribute to this extensive research on pensions and long-term care policies, which have a fundamental impact, not only upon each other, but also on the financial services industry, which can benefit from linking the two debates,” he says. “The success of the UK pensions industry is critical to JPMorgan Investor Services. This is an important piece of research in which, as a leading provider to the pensions market, we were delighted to play a sponsorship role. We have a 15 per cent market share in the UK pensions market, and believe that it is vital that we play a leading role in the debates and issues of the day as they affect pensions.”
The independent observer will wonder if IPPR finds this endorsement entirely helpful. Indeed, the think tank is at pains to emphasise that its findings are the responsibility of the authors alone and “do not necessarily represent the views of the sponsors.” Has quite so much ever depended on a single adverb? That “necessarily” is rather like the apology at the end of a film, where the director says that any resemblance between the characters and real people is entirely coincidental. Brooks emphasises that IPPR drew on “original and independent research” from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the London School of Economics, University of Leicester and the London School of Economics. “The findings of our research are our own and are not the responsibility of our partners,” he repeats.
A conference on the report is planned for 15th April 2002, where the issues raised will be further discussed.