Pensions industry reacts to Queen’s Speech announcements

The Queen’s Speech has today outlined government proposals relating to pension dashboards, irresponsible pension scheme management and the issue of pension scamming.

Other measures set to be introduced in the forthcoming Pension Schemes Bill will also pave the way for a new Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) pension plan of the kind that Royal Mail is intending to roll out.

Hargreaves Lansdown head of pensions policy, Tom McPhail, described the CDC as “a new half-way house type of scheme”. He said: “CDC schemes give members some certainty over their future benefits, without the full guarantees you get from a final salary scheme. Whether any other employers follow the Royal Mail lead in the future is uncertain; there’s currently no sign of a queue forming.”

McPhail added: “Regulatory powers in the Bill will also give The Pensions Regulator more powers in taking to task employers who may be neglecting their final salary schemes in favour of paying dividends out to shareholders. It will help strengthen the protection of employees’ guaranteed pensions, and hopefully cut down on the type of scandals we’ve seen with BHS and Carillion in recent years.”

Responding to the confirmation that pension dashboards have got the go-ahead, AJ Bell senior analyst, Tom Selby, commented: “Dashboards have the potential to revolutionise retirement engagement in the UK by allowing savers to see all their pensions in one place, but we need to recognise the first versions will be extremely limited.

“Schemes won’t be forced to provide data in the initial phase and total compulsion is expected to take years, meaning people will only see partial information,” he explained. “Ensuring the limitations of early dashboards are made crystal clear to users will be vital in establishing and maintaining trust.”

Selby also welcomed the clampdown on pension fraudsters, adding: “This latest intervention, if it becomes law, was first proposed in 2017 and should strengthen the ability of pension providers to refuse a transfer where there is evidence that the scheme someone is moving to is being used to facilitate scam activity.

“Previously there has been a real tension between the rights of savers to move their money to a different scheme, which is clearly very important, and the responsibilities on providers in blocking transfers to suspect schemes. Addressing this tension will help ensure fewer people fall victim to pensions fraud.”

But Royal London director of policy, Steve Webb, highlighted areas that had not been included in the proposed Pensions Bill, such as the expansion of auto-enrolment saving and the regulation of DB ‘superfunds’.

“This Bill is notable more for the things that have been left out than for what it contains,” he argued. “The absence of vital measures on automatic enrolment and on regulating new ‘superfunds’ is a sign of a battle inside government, where the Treasury once again has defeated the DWP.

“As a result, the vital expansion of automatic enrolment is now on hold and the regulation of pension superfunds has been left in regulatory limbo. It is one of the biggest failings of UK pension policy that the department with lead responsibility for pensions can be thwarted in bringing forward sensible reforms by an over-mighty Treasury which has no vision for pensions.”

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