Industry awaits next pensions minister

14 November 2023

Laura Trott’s exit as pensions minister for the role of chief secretary to the Treasury after just a year in the position, leaves the industry waiting to see who will be appointed in her stead.

Concerns among industry commentators is for coherence of pension policies with pensions ministers staying in situ for only short periods of time.

Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at Quilter, reflected commentators when he said: “With yet a new pensions minister soon to be in post the frequent changes in the individual holding the ministerial role continue to make it difficult for the UK to have any coherent policies when it comes to pensions. Pension policy suffers when it is subject to the whims of political reshuffling.”

“While investment into productive capital surely is still a very important mission for this government, pensions don’t appear to be a top priority for the government as in just a few days we have had confirmation of no pensions bill to take forward important policy proposals and we will now have yet another new pensions minister.

“This omission in the King’s Speech is a telling sign that pension policy may not receive the attention it requires in the immediate future. Instead, it appears that the government may place pension reforms on hold, likely due to prioritising other agenda items ahead of the general election.

“Such a move risks leaving pensioners and those nearing retirement in a state of uncertainty, as the complexity and importance of pension schemes demand consistent oversight and innovation to remain robust against future economic and demographic challenges.”

Looking at Laura Trott’s time in the role, Kate Smith, head of Pensions at Aegon UK  said: “She packed a lot into a relatively short time in her ambition to deliver ‘fairer, more predictable and better run pensions’. This included the Value for Money Framework, small pots work and Collective Defined Contribution pension schemes, and the drive towards scheme consolidation, with fewer larger pension schemes.

“Many of these initiatives have been intertwined with the Chancellor’s interest in encouraging pension schemes to invest in private equity to boost economic growth.  Although an ambitious agenda, much of this is still ‘work in progress’ and with no Pensions Bill included in the King’s Speech, or in sight, it means delivering these initiatives could be some years off.

However, Smith points out that the developments in auto-enrolment were initiated as a private member’s bill by Jonathan Gullis MP rather than Trott’s department.

“One area where Trott has made a difference, and delivered, has been to define and publish the first official statistics showing the gender pensions gap, shining a light on the difference between male and female private pensions wealth. This will allow the government, and employers, to monitor the impact of policies and the wider economic pressures on the gender pensions gap, hopefully helping to develop solutions to narrow the gap.”

Smith added: “It will be vital for the new Minister to get up to speed quickly, and continue driving forward these key pension initiatives.”

Lily Megson, policy director at My Pension Expert, concurred, saying: “Whoever next takes up the role, there is no question they have some important issues to tackle.”

“Deciding the long-term future of the triple lock, finally delivering on the government’s constantly delayed pensions dashboard, and providing better access to advice for those entering and in retirement must be high on the to-do list. Given the economic turbulence Britons have had to navigate over recent years, people are crying out for clarity on government policy – both on pensions and the economy – so they can practically plan for the future.

No time should be wasted in announcing the new Pensions Minister she added “and then delivering much-needed certainty on what their priorities will be. It is consumers who will suffer if the game of ministerial musical chairs takes precedence over meaningful policy and reform.”

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