Gordon Brown insists pension reforms were the right decision

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has insisted that his controversial reforms of the pensions system in his first Budget ten years ago were the “the right decision” for Britain.

The questions followed revelations in The Times that Gordon Brown was warned in official advice to the Treasury that raiding pension funds by removing tax relief on pensions dividends would cost savers tens of billions of pounds.

The Treasury documents which were released after a two-year freedom of information battle by The Times showed that officials had warned Mr Brown that his plans would cut pension benefits, hit businesses and force higher public spending.

Brown defends 'right decision' on pensions (The Times, 3 April 2007)

However, Times journalist Anatole Kaletsky warns that the disclosure of these documents will have an adverse effect on freedom of information disclosures in the future:

"The final lesson from this sorry saga is about the impact on public policy in the future. The decision by the Information Commissioner to force the Treasury to publish its internal papers may seem a triumph for open government, but this latest instance of regulatory overreach will achieve the opposite result to the one intended.

Instead of opening up the workings of government, the Freedom of Information Act will encourage ministers only to seek advice that supports the decisions they want to take. If all civil service advice is prepared with an eye for publication, objections to official policies will not be put in writing and will soon be completely suppressed. As in the Bush White House — or indeed in Downing Street during the preIraq period — ministers will expect their staffs to filter out any evidence or arguments that would later allow their decisions to be questioned."

It’s a pension storm in a teacup. Pass the sugar (The Times, 6 April 2007)