After many years of a ‘revolving door’ of pensions ministers, the period since 2010 has seen much greater stability. From 2010-15, Steve Webb served as Minister of State for Pensions, whilst since 2017 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the DWP for Pensions has been Guy Opperman.
Tomorrow (Friday 10th June) he equals Steve Webb’s record tenure in post. In response, Steve Webb, now a partner at LCP, has congratulated Mr Opperman and published a blog reviewing the highs and lows of pension policy in the last five years.
Key points are:
- Steve Webb welcome’s Guy Opperman’s long service, stressing the value to pensions of having a consistent person in charge, and someone who wanted the job;
- He highlights progress on a number of fronts including:
- Getting nearer to the go-live of pensions dashboards
- Getting the legal framework in place for CDC schemes
- A greater focus on how pension scheme money is invested, including with regard to climate change and the potential for investment in infrastructure and other ‘illiquid’ assets
- He expresses concern at the lack of progress on automatic enrolment, highlighting the failure to even begin the implementation of the 2017 review of automatic enrolment; Steve Webb also asks whether policy on DB isn’t overly influenced by ‘responding to the previous crisis’, with a tough new regime developed off the back of concerns over BHS and Carillion, coming into force at a time when DB funding is being transformed.
- He concludes that many of the barriers to progress have come not from the DWP but from the Treasury, and says that in many ways the key driver of pensions policy in the UK today is not the policy or personalities at the top of the DWP but the agenda of the Chancellor and the Treasury.
Steve Webb said: “I congratulate Guy Opperman on becoming the longest serving pensions minister of modern times. There is no doubt that pensions policy benefits from consistency rather than a ‘revolving door’ of ministers, and it is good to have a minister who actually wants the job.
“Mr Opperman has many things to be proud of, including moving much nearer to the go-live for pensions dashboards, and helping to enable the first CDC schemes in the UK, as well as raising the profile of climate change in the pensions and investment world.
“But I am sure that he will be disappointed by how little progress has been made on automatic enrolment, as shown by the fact that the 2017 review remains gathering dust nearly five years later. This is undoubtedly due to the Treasury refusing to sign-off on these proposals, and is a sign that pensions policy is increasingly driven from the Treasury rather than DWP”.