Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Pension Schemes Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:14 pm on 30th January 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney 10:14 pm, 30th January 2017

I am conscious that some Members may be worried that they will be collecting their pension before we have finished debating the Pension Schemes Bill, but I promise that I will not detain the House long. That is a light-hearted start to a speech on a serious issue. It is a great pleasure and honour to speak in this debate, and to follow Kirsty Blackman, who made the important point that for many years there has been a lack of saving and pension provision in society at large. Members of the public turn to pension saving later than perhaps they ought to have done, and—dare I suggest it?—some Members of Parliament may have done the same. That is what the Bill is designed to address.

This is an important and often neglected policy area, and the Government’s strides towards automatic enrolment have gone a great way towards putting wrong that right. There is a need for further work, however, which the Bill is designed to address. We have heard about the types of master trust available, and I will not take the House through them all again. They are important, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. I am made aware of that every time I go around my constituency and meet those in charge of small businesses, of which we have a great many in Witney. Their main concerns are regulation and the steps that they have to go through. Master trusts give them a way to deal with those matters very quickly, because administration costs are pooled and one group of trustees manages a scheme. Not all employers will wish to set up their own scheme, so master trusts help them greatly. As has been said in the other place, master trusts are a neat solution for smaller employers, for whom setting up an individual scheme would be a burden.

We need the Bill, because the previous reforms have led to the master trusts being a great success. So far, more than 7 million people have been enrolled in a workplace pension by more than 370,000 employers, and total assets of £10 billion are being managed. As the programme rolls out to smaller employers during 2018, we expect that to increase so that an estimated 10 million workers will be newly saving, or saving more, in those workplace pensions. That will have generated £17 million per annum in additional pension savings by 2019-2020.

Action must be taken now, because the increased saving is taking place against a legislative and regulatory framework that was designed for 2010, when some 200,000 members were taking part in master trust schemes; now the figure is some 7 million. The regulatory framework was designed with single-employer schemes in mind, but master trusts operate on a different scale and with very different dynamics. The first part of the Bill, which I support, will help to deal with that.

The second part of the Bill deals with early exit charges. In 2014, the Government brought in major changes to pensions, which have allowed 232,000 people to access flexible payments and exercise their right to use their money in the way they see fit. More than 1.5 million payments have been made, with £9.2 billion withdrawn in the first 21 months. Some schemes impose costs on people when they withdraw their money to use as they see fit, and the Bill is designed to address that.

In conclusion, I support the Bill. It will, I submit, increase confidence in saving and confidence in pensions. It will protect savers, and it will enable them to take full advantage of the new pension freedoms that they have been granted by the Government. It is a reforming Bill that amends the existing framework, and it will be of benefit to all. I urge the House to support it.