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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Let me start by placing the Bill in the context of the Government’s overall record on pensions. This Government have delivered radical and much-needed changes to our pensions system to make savings easier, fairer and safer for all. Since 2010 the pensions landscape has seen a revolution not only in state support, but in the ways in which people can save and access their pension savings.
We have removed the default retirement age, helping people to live fuller working lives. That is good for people’s wellbeing and their retirement income, and it benefits individuals, employers and the economy. We have made it easier for them to understand their state pension, and by setting the full amount at £155.65 a week we will lift more pensioners out of means-testing in the future. Together with the reviews of the state pension age, those changes are creating a sustainable system as a foundation for people’s private retirement saving.
We have increased private long-term savings by introducing automatic enrolment. More than 7 million people have already been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension, and more than 370,000 employers have declared that they have met their automatic enrolment duties. This is the cornerstone of our private pension reforms and it reverses the decade-long decline in pension savings prior to its introduction. It is a programme that works and it helps people achieve a more financially secure later life.
I am grateful to the many independent observers who have commented on the success of the policy. The Work and Pensions Committee has recognised that automatic enrolment has been a “tremendous success”. The National Audit Office, reporting on automatic enrolment in November 2016, found that the
“programme is also on track to deliver value for money in improving retirement incomes in the longer term”.
Findings of a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which was also published in November 2016, suggest that automatic enrolment is having a huge relative impact on those with the lowest participation rates in workplace pensions before its introduction, in particular those aged between 22 and 29—a group that has seen a 52.1 percentage point increase in pensions saving—and those in the lowest incomes quartile, who have seen a 53.9 percentage points increase. Moreover, the institute found that automatic enrolment is having an effect well beyond our target eligible group, in particular those earning under the £10,000 threshold, and that some employers are paying above minimum contribution rates.
Women are benefiting, too. In 2011, only 39% of eligible women employed in the private sector were in a workplace pension; by 2015, the figure had increased to 70%. By 2018, we estimate that 10 million workers will be newly saving or saving more into a workplace pension as a result of this change, generating about £17 billion in additional pension saving each year by 2019-20.
The Government’s introduction of pension freedoms in April 2015 allows those aged 55 and over to access their pension savings with more flexibility. People with defined contribution pension schemes can now choose to use those funds in the way that is most suited to their circumstances, whether by drawing down the income, taking out an annuity, taking a lump sum or using some combination of those options. Since the introduction of pension freedoms, more than 1.5 million payments have been made, with £9.2 billion withdrawn flexibly in the first 21 months.
That is the landscape; let me turn to the Bill. Our focus now is to make sure that the regulatory landscape continues to be effective in protecting members so that everyone can have confidence in their pension scheme. Automatic enrolment requires employers, small and large, to provide pensions for their workers, in many cases for the first time. Automatic enrolment is helping to ensure that tomorrow’s pensioners have greater security and an asset base in later life. Many employers have selected master trust pension schemes because they can offer scale, good governance and value for members.