Minister’s response on automatic enrolment “hugely disappointing” – LCP’s Steve Webb

Photo of Steve Webb.
Steve Webb, partner at LCP

Comments made in Parliament this morning by Pensions Minister Guy Opperman in a debate on pensions automatic enrolment have been described as “hugely disappointing” by LCP partner and former pensions minister, Steve Webb.

MPs spent 90 minutes in Westminster Hall debating automatic enrolment, and expectations had been raised that Guy Opperman would use the opportunity to announce a major step forward. Indeed, the Minister tweeted:

But at the end of the debate the Minister offered no firm timetable for progress on automatic enrolment. DWP published a report in late 2017 on automatic enrolment which recommended two key changes:

  • Starting to enrol workers at age 18 rather than age 22;
  • Applying the mandatory 8% contribution rate on the whole of earnings up to a ceiling rather than only on ‘qualifying’ earnings above a floor;

Although the Minister restated his commitment to these changes he said in Parliament that the timetable for the implementing these 2017 proposals “..was still a matter of ongoing debate”. DWP was hoping to get a legislative slot in the 2022 or 2023 Queen’s Speech which would probably be the most likely route to getting the changes implemented, but he could offer no guarantees. The Minister did say that he agreed that “8% is not enough” and wanted to look at US experience on how to get savers going beyond this level, and also wanted to do more for the self-employed.

Commenting, Steve Webb (pictured) said:

“It is a huge disappointment that more than four years after DWP published a widely accepted review of automatic enrolment we are still no nearer to seeing these modest changes implemented. The Government needs to realise the urgency of this issue. A whole generation of people who missed out on DB pensions and are only building up modest DC pensions could be set for a miserable retirement unless the pace of change is increased. Good intentions are no longer enough, we need action”.

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