Pension Schemes Bill — Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 7th January 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Drake Baroness Drake Labour 6:15 pm, 7th January 2015

My Lords, I have sympathy with the thrust of my noble friend’s Amendment 7. Scale can be very important in influencing efficiency of pension provision and value for money for the pension saver. We also know that there is a significant tail of small DC and DB schemes which could actually increase if we begin to see an accelerated closure of trust-based DC schemes in response to the new freedoms. That is a problem to be monitored and addressed as part of protecting savers’ interests.

In principle, putting small inefficient schemes into large efficient schemes is a good thing but as the noble Lord, Lord German, flagged, the path to achieving that can sometimes reveal some real difficulties. As a trustee I have experienced this. The problem arises when considering what a small scheme is transferred into. In real life, some real pressures come to bear. For example, an employer may be keen to see members of a closed, small trust-based DC scheme bulk transfer into a contract-based product, but if that product is a personal pension which falls outside the scope of the new charges cap or the quality standards, the value for money and governance benefits on transfer may not be so clear-cut. Equally, the trust scheme rules of small schemes, even in DC, may have some beneficial provisions. For example, the employer may meet the administration costs, so some of the costs of that DC provision are met by the employer. What happens to that protection on transfer?

Certainly, the principle of promoting scale consequentially to promote value for money is a good one. However, if there is to be a provision to require trustees to transfer their schemes in certain circumstances, there needs to be regulatory clarity about the standards of schemes into which schemes can be transferred or directed by the regulator—whether there are nominated aggregators or whatever into which a regulator could so direct if it felt that something was quite small and unsustainable. The principle is sound but, like any principle, the path of getting there sometimes needs some additional support. I flag those up as issues that would need to be captured in making any regulatory provision about forcing the pace on scale.

I can speak only from an anecdotal basis to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord German, about evidence. I cannot provide any evidence. I can provide only experience. As employers have tackled their big

DB benefits and addressed auto-enrolment, I think they are looking to consolidate or transfer out small schemes, so I expect this to be a growing issue—but I express that view on an anecdotal basis.