13 MAY 1989, Page 23

Come off it, CBI

WHAT gets into the Confederation of British Industry? I know it is a trade union, but does it have to proceed at the pace of the slowest and the thickest skinned? There are times when it seems to draw its economic policies from the golf club bar, but as for its new pensions policy, from what bar does that come? Annabel's? Only there, surely, can the regulars grumble at the plight of the hard-pressed executive on his basic £60,000-plus with pension be- nefits. These benefits, remember, are the biggest tax-breaks of all. Contributions are allowed against tax to the company which pays them, are untaxed in the beneficiary's hand, once in the fund escape any tax of any kind, and even when they come out may in useful part be a tax-free lump sum. The Budget put a limit on this tax relief (just as there is a limit to tax relief on mortgages). Companies may pay what they like, but for the £60,000-plus man, the extra contribution cannot pass through the pension fund, and will be taxed in the beneficiary's hand for the obvious and valuable benefit that it is. The pension fund managers have staged their predicat- able show of sanctimony, but now the CBI has joined in. Jolly unfair, the cry goes up! Make it £100,000! The CBI knows that the pay round coming up is the stickiest for years, that margins will be under pressure, and that management salaries have consis- tently outpaced pay-packets. Now it chooses to lobby for the manager's right, not just to an extra £40,000 a year, and pension contributions in line with it, but to tax relief on top of that! CBI, come off it.