Finance (No. 2) Bill

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 1:36 pm on 1st April 2014.

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Photo of Danny Alexander Danny Alexander The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 1:36 pm, 1st April 2014

I will not give way, because I want to make progress. The increase in the personal allowance will mean that a typical basic rate taxpayer will pay more than £800 less income tax per year than in 2010-11. That is real action to support the millions of people on low and middle incomes. It helps them to keep more of what they earn and rewards those who want to work hard. This Government and this Bill also recognise that people who rely on their savings income have been hit particularly hard by low returns in recent years. It is for that reason that we are cutting tax on savings for the lowest earners. From April 2015, the 10p starting rate of tax on savings will be abolished and a 0% rate will be extended to the first £5,000 of savings income above the personal allowance. That will benefit 1.5 million people with low earnings from some savings, and more than 1 million people will no longer pay any tax on their savings income at all.

It is no exaggeration to say that this Government have achieved sweeping reforms on pensions. Under the excellent leadership of my Liberal Democrat colleague, the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend Steve Webb, our simplifications and reforms of the pensions sector will be one of this Government’s most enduring legacies. Automatic enrolment will see nearly 6 million people enrolled in workplace pension schemes by the end of this Parliament. The single-tier pension will provide millions of individuals with a firm foundation to support their saving, and it will particularly benefit those groups that, under the current system, have tended to build up low amounts of savings. I am talking about women with broken work records, the low paid and the self-employed. The triple lock has helped to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, and the recent Budget announcements provide us with the final thread of this coalition’s web of pension reforms.

From April 2015 we will allow individuals much greater choice about how they access their defined contribution pension savings. Individuals will be able to access their defined contribution as they wish, subject to their marginal tax rate, and no one will be forced to take out an annuity if they do not want to. We are well aware that this is the biggest shake-up of pensions in almost a century—since Lloyd George was the Liberal Minister in the Treasury. As such, we recognise that it is absolutely crucial that we get it right. We are consulting on the detail before making further announcements later this year.

In the meantime, the Finance Bill will make some initial changes to deliver greater flexibility with immediate effect. We are reducing the minimum income requirement for accessing pension savings flexibly from £20,000 to £12,000. We are increasing the annual withdrawal limit for individuals in a capped drawdown arrangement from 120% to 150% of an equivalent annuity. We are increasing the total pension wealth that can be taken as a lump sum from £18,000 to £30,000, and we are increasing the size of a pension pot that can be taken as a lump sum—regardless of other pension wealth—from £2,000 to £10,000. Taken together, these changes mean that more than 400,000 people will be able to access their pension more flexibly in the financial year 2014-15.