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'Allow retired to sell pensions'

Millions of retired workers could be given the right to sell their pensions under plans being floated by a Liberal Democrat minister.

Pensions ministers Steve Webb said that he wanted to build on reforms in last year's Budget which will mean that from April, working people will be able to cash in their pension savings for a lump sum when they retire.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, he said that he wanted to extend the scheme to existing pensioners, enabling them to sell the annuities they had been required to buy under the old rules to the highest bidder.

"I want to see people trusted with their own money wherever possible. I have already heard from people around the country who would like to see this change made," he said.

"I want to see if we can get these freedoms extended to those who are receiving an annuity, but who might prefer a cash lump sum.

"No one would be obliged to do so, but for those who would prefer up-front capital to regular income, I can see no reason why this should not be an option."

Mr Webb said that he would like to launch a public consultation and publish an agreed coalition plan before the general election.

But with time running out ahead of polling day on May 7, he indicated that he would be seeking support from Labour so as to ensure the reforms could be carried through early in the next parliament, regardless of the outcome of the election.

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