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Coalition to unveil collective pension scheme

A SHAKE-UP of workplace pensions, tax-free childcare, a boost to shale gas exploration, help for further oil and gas developments in the North Sea and even a Heroism Bill to prevent have-a-go heroes from being prosecuted are due to be unveiled by the Coalition this week.

Ministers are keen to prove, with less than a year to go before the next general election, that in the current five-year Westminster Parliament the Coalition has not run out of ideas and become a "zombie government".

A centrepiece to the Queen's Speech, set out on Wednesday, will be a radical shake-up of workplace pensions with ministers insisting retirement incomes could be boosted by thousands of pounds.

For the first time staff will be able to put their money into Dutch-style "collective pensions", shared with thousands of other members. The so-called "mega funds" are regarded by many as a better investment because they are less vulnerable to variations in the stock market.

The controversial changes, which could be introduced as early as 2016, are intended to deliver better value for pensioners.

Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister, described the collective schemes as "some of the best in the world".

Their main advantage, he said, was "pooling risk" of investments performing less well than expected across large numbers of people of different ages, "just like car insurance or the NHS". But critics have warned that, unlike with a fixed annuity, pensioners only have a "target" for what they will receive in retirement instead of a guarantee. If the fund's investments failed to generate the expected profits, pensioners could see their incomes fall, they argue.

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