Pensions Bill [HL]
Baroness Drake (Labour)
I thank the Minister for that detailed response. I will reflect on some of the points that he has made.
I have sympathy with the point my noble friend Lady Hollis made that, if one spends time on the evidence compiled in the Johnson review, one can see that it can be deployed for not raising the threshold as persuasively as it can for raising it. That is one of the problems. Certainly, there is some persuasive evidence in that review that the earnings trigger should not rise above the order of £7,475 in today's terms. Even looking at that evidence and listening to the Minister's arguments, I can understand-I may not accept-the argument that runs that if one is moving to a single-tier flat-rate pension of £140, then an auto-enrolment figure of £7,465 may be appropriate, but that does not go to chasing an income tax threshold to £10,190, which is designed to achieve something quite different.
When it comes to the issue of replacement rates or who should be smoothing their income over their lifetime, and who needs to firmly hold on to their income over their lifetime because they are not well off enough to let it go and smooth it, we have to be very careful what is said. Again, I go back to the Johnson review; most people are not persistent low earners. Their aspirations on their replacement rates will not be determined by the low earnings they may have at a particular point in time; and those low earnings should not interrupt their persistency of savings. Equally with women, one has to look at household income, because one of the principal points of the pension reforms was that they work for women. As the Johnson review itself said, they may be in a household with someone who is working full-time or earning much more; they may be precisely the people who should be saving and their period of lower earnings as a part-timer may not be at that level over all their working life. Equally, to get the desired replacement rate, one has to have persistency of saving; one will not get there on five or six or seven years of saving. If one sets a trigger for auto-enrolment which interrupts that persistency of saving when someone moves to a lower level of earnings, that is not very efficient. Also, for those on lower and more modest incomes, no reference was made to how the tax credit system can make it pay to save, providing tax relief as high as 50 per cent or 60 per cent for some individuals, which when taken with the employer contribution should not necessarily be income forgone.
We will look with interest at the impact assessment that will be brought forward in each of the next five years, because I have expressed our concerns on this issue. Flexibility for changing circumstances is often driven by short or medium-term considerations: having a successful pension system is a long-term project and it needs people to be engaged in saving over a very long period. Having expressed those reservations, and recognising that there will be an impact assessment, I am sure that others will return to this issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 15 withdrawn.
Amendment 16 not moved.
Clause 6 : Postponement or disapplication of automatic enrolment
Amendments 17 to 18A not moved.
Clause 8 : Review of earnings trigger and qualifying earnings band
Amendment 19 not moved.
Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.37 pm.