Amendment 53

Pension Schemes Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords at 7:17 pm on 30th June 2020.

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Lord Young of Cookham:

Moved by Lord Young of Cookham

53: Clause 118, page 106, leave out line 32Member’s explanatory statementThis is a probing amendment, following the debate in Committee, to establish the Government’s proposals to use GOV.UK Verify for the purpose of authorising access to the Dashboard.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Conservative

My Lords, Amendment 53 in my name presses the Government to clarify progress on identity verification. This is crucial because without a system for identity verification—proving you are who you say you are—no one can use a dashboard. The original proposal for verification was summarised on the ABI website:

“The process to confirm the identity of users is based on the gov.uk/verify system”.

Verify was a government-sponsored IT project that began in 2014 and has cost about £200 million. It should have provided the basis for accessing pensions dashboards. To put it mildly, however, it has not lived up to expectations, leaving a void in the dashboard programme.

Last year the NAO published a critical report on what in its words was

“intended to be a flagship digital programme”.

It said:

“Even in the context of GDS’s”— the Government Digital Service’s—

“redefined objectives for the programme, it is difficult to conclude that successive decisions to continue with Verify have been sufficiently justified.”

A year earlier, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority recommended that Verify be closed as quickly as practicable. The Institute for Government’s Whitehall Monitor commented that the scheme continued to be “mired in issues”, had fallen “short of targets”, and had

“failed to build its intended user base and … is not delivering the efficiencies that the government sought.”

In March this year the Government stopped funding the scheme. Verify’s falling out of favour was heralded by my noble friend in his reply to my amendment in Committee. This is what he said:

“I understood what my noble friend said about Verify, and I assure him that the industry delivery group has this issue squarely on its radar.”

Putting on his black cap, he went on to say:

“The solution may not be Verify. … We hope to make announcements on that in due course.”—[Official Report, 2/3/20; col. GC 205.]

Responsibility for taking identification verification forward now rests with MaPS, the Money and Pensions Service. In its progress report in April on identity verification, there is no mention of Verify, which seems to have been airbrushed out.

Yesterday, I got an email from Mr McKenna of MaPS, for which I am grateful. I had asked him whether the current market engagement exercise on the dashboard included verification, and this is the reply:

“The current market engagement exercise does not include identity verification. This is a separate work strand within the programme that requires more work before we will be in a position to engage with the supplier market.”

So a prerequisite for the dashboard programme has been put to the back of the queue. Who is going to provide the identity verification service? Given the commitments that we have heard this evening that the service will be free, how on earth will it be funded? Will it be by MaPS, for example? Is my noble friend able to make the announcement that he trailed in his earlier reply to me, on the timing and funding of this crucial element in the programme?

Amendment 65, in my name, places an obligation on MaPS to provide a dashboard by replacing “may” with “must”. It is the identical twin of an amendment that I tabled in Committee, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Altmann and the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, for their support. To the amateur, our one-word change seems a more economical way of achieving the desired objective than the five government amendments with thousands of words, but we bow before the expertise of professional drafters. I say straight away how grateful I am, as I am sure other noble Lords are, that the Government have listened to the strong case made on all sides in Committee, and recognised that we need the certainty of compulsion, rather than the uncertainty of discretion, when it comes to MaPS and the dashboard. That we have this concession is typical of the patient listening of Ministers and their officials in the last three months, on this and other issues, and I warmly welcome it.

But—and it is an important “but”—there is no date by which they have to do this. Without some idea of timescale, we could be left holding the menu without ever getting the dish—hence my Amendment 68, which obliges MaPS to complete this task by December 2022. I referred in Committee to the length of time it has already taken to get this project up and running. It was first promised by Government in 2002 as an online retirement planner, and we were told 12 years later by the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury that:

“A ‘RetirementSaverService’ (dashboard) will be essential to support pension freedoms.”

Five years after pension freedoms, there is still no dashboard, while eight national dashboards have been launched in Europe and we have been reassured by the ABI that there has been extensive testing of prototypes.

In response to my amendment in Committee, my noble friend Lord Howe said,

“but I can tell my noble friend that MaPS and the industry delivery group intend to set out their approach for the year ahead by Easter. By then, we should have at least the outline of a plan, with milestones I hope, so that we can be a little clearer on the answer to the question that he raised.”—[Official Report, 28/2/20; col. GC 184.]

Easter has come and gone, but no milestones. The latest from MaPS is:

“We plan to lay out a more detailed timeline by the end of the year.”

I looked at the ABI website over the weekend to see if it had updated it on the subject of the dashboard since Committee, and I found this under “FAQ”:

“If the prototype has worked, why do I have to wait until 2019 to use this myself?”

Perhaps that could be updated before Third Reading.

Since Committee, MaPS and the ABI have had to cope with the pandemic, and their top priority has to be the continued payment of pensions, the collection and investment of contributions, and the provision of advice. But the introduction of “must” instead of “may” risks being meaningless without some indication of a date by when the obligation must be discharged. I hope that my noble friend can provide some sort of road map and destination time by which we will do this.

Finally, Amendment 63, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, would require the MaPS dashboard to be up and running for a year before other dashboards. My initial view was that we did not need to have more than one dashboard as the data displayed on each would be identical, so why duplicate? However, as a Conservative, I was persuaded to support competition and choice, but I have a lot of sympathy with this amendment; I believe it would be best if MaPS became the brand leader of dashboards and was well established as such in the minds of the public. It has a better chance of doing this if it is first out of the traps, rather like the BBC and commercial broadcasters. In practice, this should be the case as MaPS is in charge of the plumbing for all the dashboards.

Looking at the progress update report from MaPS in April, I see that Chris Curry of MaPS is in charge of the pension dashboards programme. His remit will be to develop the secure digital architecture to support and enable the development of pension dashboards. Therefore, MaPS is doing the specification, procurement and testing of the common systems that everyone will be using; with this inside track, it ought to be first in the field.

The Minister said in reply to the debate on this in Committee:

“It could be that the publicly funded dashboard will be launched first and be first in class, and that others will follow.”—[Official Report, 26/2/20; col. 185GC]

It would be helpful if the Minister could go a little further this evening and encourage MaPS to say publicly that it is indeed its intention to be up and running before anyone else. On this, as indeed with other amendments, I will listen very carefully to what my noble friend says in reply. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Drake Baroness Drake Labour

My Lords, the introduction of a pension dashboard service raises major considerations of the public good and consumer interest, which is why I, my noble friend Lady Sherlock and many other noble Lords across the House have argued strongly for citizens to have the right to access their data through a public dashboard and not be restricted to commercial services.

I thank the Minister for his courteous consideration of our arguments and the decision of the Government to require the Money and Pensions Service—MaPS, a public body—to provide a pension dashboard service. Amendment 63 would ensure that the MaPS public dashboard must have been in operation for a year, and the Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament on the operation of that service, before commercial dashboards are authorised by the FCA to enter the market. A MaPS dashboard would be part of their function to deliver guidance to the public that is free at the point of use—a safe space, unfettered by any commercial interests.

As the Government can mandate all pension providers and schemes to release personal financial data on the order of 22 or more million people, Parliament needs to be confident that the public good and consumer interest are well served. The points of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, are extremely valuable and important, and I thank him for making them. Financial technology should be harnessed for the public good and to improve financial markets, and the dashboard has that potential.

However, building a dashboard service has complexities and challenges. The architecture, the liability model, consumer redress on detriment, data standards and sharing risks, identity verification and security—that quite rightly preoccupied the noble Lord, Lord Young—delegated access and consumer behavioural responses, to name just a few, are all work in progress. As I observed in the previous debate:

“The long-term savings market is particularly vulnerable to consumer detriment”.—[Official Report, 26/2/20; col. 176GC]

There is a major governance challenge to be addressed: the consumer protection of millions in both the provision of the dashboard and the infrastructure that supports it.

The ABI, speaking for some commercial providers, has acknowledged the need for strong governance to make clear what obligations, liabilities and controls will be in place and are necessary. In requiring near-universal coverage, the dashboard service raises the bar on protecting customers from poor behaviour by regulated and unregulated providers, scammers and consumers’ own vulnerability, when all their savings can be viewed in one place.

Better information facilitates, but does not automatically translate into more engagement or better decision-making. Similarly, with the presentation of data, individuals reveal powerful behavioural biases; depending on how it is presented, data can nudge people towards decisions that are not in their best interests. Public policy on the dashboard has to complement the Government’s overall strategy to support savers. There is a need to understand the behavioural responses of consumers and how access to guidance and data presentation can improve decision-making. As I have said before, poor decisions on pensions are mostly irreversible and can be financially life-changing.

Delivering a successful dashboard also involves consideration of the activities and policies that come off the back of that dashboard. Engagement is important, but the evidence consistently reveals that defaults are the most powerful drivers of behaviour and good outcomes. Greater knowledge of people’s saving should encourage more fit-for-purpose glide paths and default products in a manner that puts consumers’ consent and interests first. It will be important to understand how the dashboard contributes beneficially to consolidating small savings pots and liberating funds from poor-value products.

There are those who argue that the complexities are overconsidered, but significant others who are deeply engaged in providing pensions take a different view. The Nest pensions trust, with over 8 million members, argues that the Government’s focus should be on the creation of a public dashboard with strong governance and consumer protection applied. The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, so often quoted in support of the Government’s arguments, takes the view that the Government should begin with the first dashboard as a single non-commercial dashboard to ensure that the level and quality of consumer protection is fit for purpose. Which? commented that the Bill

“should enable the best possible dashboards to be created in the shortest possible time, starting with a Government-backed pensions dashboard.”

I have set out some of the important issues. We do not yet know all the answers, and the behavioural responses have yet to be seen. This amendment does not oppose commercial dashboards, but it seeks one year of experience with the MaPS public dashboard and a report to Parliament for the authorisation of commercial dashboard services in the market. The Minister will no doubt argue that there will be plenty of testing and trialling before public and commercial dashboards are simultaneously launched, and that this amendment is unnecessary. But there are sufficient examples in the real world, public and private, where live operation reveals fault lines and unanticipated consequences.

Given the issues of public good and consumer interest in play here, this amendment asks no more than that the Government, in exercising their duty of care to what will be millions of consumers, ensure that the MaPS service is up and running for a year before commercial dashboards enter the market, and that the Secretary of State has reported to Parliament. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. If not, I intend to push it to a vote.

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann Conservative 7:30 pm, 30th June 2020

My Lords, I want to speak briefly in support of Amendment 63. I have also added my name to Amendment 65. As the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, has just outlined, consumer protection has to be paramount. There has to be significant concern that, once a dashboard is up and running, we will need to learn lessons before further activity takes place. If we have a public service dashboard for a minimum of a year, we will have chances to learn lessons that otherwise might not be learned—particularly in light of such issues as data concerns, types of protected benefits and requirements for MaPS guidance. I am most grateful to the Minister for accepting the concept of requiring MaPS advice or guidance before any transfers. This is an important issue. I therefore hope that the Government will recognise the necessity of ensuring that private dashboards do not start before the public dashboard has been tried, tested and reported upon in Parliament.

The principle of Amendment 68, tabled by my noble friend Lord Young, is right. I would just advise caution on the issue of data accuracy and the lack of data standards, and the fact that it may simply not be possible for a dashboard and the data to be ready in the timescale he is suggesting, but the thrust of it and having an end date is absolutely the right way forward.

Photo of Lord Vaux of Harrowden Lord Vaux of Harrowden Crossbench

My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 63 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock. This amendment is very simple. It seeks to ensure a period of a year from the establishment of the publicly operated dashboard before competing commercial dashboards are allowed to operate. This may seem a small point, but it is quite important. Dashboards are a new concept and will include large amounts of sensitive and complex data from many sources. We do not yet know how they will used, whether the current design concepts are suitable in practice and whether changes will need to be made to ensure that they operate well and safely. Therefore, it must make sense for the system to be tried out in one place, with proper controls, and reviewed and reported upon, before we open it up to the commercial world. This period of a year will allow us to see how a dashboard is used and whether any unforeseen problems and consequences arise.

I am grateful to the ABI for its commentary on the amendments to this Bill, but I am afraid that I disagree with it on this matter. The ABI is right that making dashboards as accessible as possible is desirable, but that must be done in a way that ensures that unforeseen consequences are avoided. As I mentioned in an earlier debate today, a bad dashboard is worse than no dashboard. A year’s grace period to ensure that what the noble Lord, Lord Young, called the plumbing is working well, and to make any tweaks, seems a common-sense safeguard.

Photo of Lord Sharkey Lord Sharkey Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I have put my name to Amendment 63 because it is vital to allow the MaPS dashboard the best possible chance of reaching a wide public and establishing MaPS as a trusted and independent operator. This amendment would provide the MaPS dashboard with a head start of about 12 months. Without that, I doubt that MaPS would be able to do any of those things very successfully. I doubt that it could establish a wide customer base. If it is competing from the start with rival commercial organisations and their dashboards, those rival dashboards, whose eventual presence I would welcome, would be provided by organisations that have more resources than MaPS does, more consumer-facing expertise and more experience and skill in communications with consumers. Many would also have a very large existing consumer contact base, firmly established brands and loyalty, whereas MaPS would find it very hard to establish itself as a distinct, recognised and trusted independent operator in the clamour of a vigorous competitive marketplace. You need market share, visibility and actual customer experience to do that. That is probably impossible for MaPS in a very busy, very fragmented and possibly very confusing marketplace.

To make the MaPS dashboard work, we need lots of people to know about it and lots of people to use it. If we are to generate trust, we must provide high levels of consumer satisfaction and embed the notion and value of independence in the MaPS brand. The only way to do this is to allow MaPS a head start, to properly fund its launch and its communication campaigns, and to give it time to use what it learns in its first year. That would enable it to offer a very high level of service by the time that the huge marketing expertise of its well-funded and contact-rich competitors arrives on the scene. That is why I support Amendment 63.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative

I welcome my noble friend Lord Young’s probing amendments on verification and timing, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister. I was very struck by the summing-up on the previous amendment by my noble friend the Deputy Leader of the House, who showed just how strong the Bill is on consumer protection and to what lengths the Government have gone to meet the House’s concerns. But others have just tried to use the Bill to bring in yet more burdensome measures.

For me, Amendment 63 takes the biscuit, because the Government have agreed to bring in a Money and Pensions Service dashboard so that there is a government, public-funded version that includes people’s various pension pots and the old-age pension. The proponents of this amendment are then trying to exclude the trail-blazing commercial version, which was behind the Bill in the first place and is designed to help savers, building on the good practice that exists out there in the best pension funds and elsewhere. The amendment would lead to a delay of a year for those dashboards, yet they will all be properly regulated and monitored and MaPS would be in the lead. Competition from others will be an incentive to quality and speed, helping to identify the bugs that the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, who knows so much about pensions, referred to.

I cannot support this amendment. It is worrying that the Government are losing on a series of inappropriate amendments because noble Lords are not coming to the House to speak and listen, but can vote from their garden benches.

Photo of Baroness Janke Baroness Janke Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I support Amendment 63 and am not voting from a garden bench. The case for this amendment has been very well stated and I will therefore not take up time by repeating it here. I support Amendment 63 and will vote for it if there is a Division.

Photo of Baroness Sherlock Baroness Sherlock Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

My Lords, this has been another interesting debate. Before I address the question of the dashboard, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Young, who has been deploying his considerable stores of intellect and wit as he has politely but determinedly pursued Ministers on the matter of verifying and identity verification. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to him yet again.

I am delighted that Ministers have now agreed to ensure that there will be a public dashboard and that it will be available from launch. I welcome the government amendments in this group, but Amendment 63, in my name and that my noble friend Lady Drake and others, aims to push the Government an extra step further: to put in place an essential safeguard that the MaPS public dashboard must have been in operation for a year, and the Secretary of State have laid a report before Parliament on the operation and effectiveness of the service, before commercial dashboards are authorised by the FCA to enter the market.

I am sorry to hear that the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, regards this amendment as inappropriate, and that she somehow seems to think that people were using the Bill as an opportunity to bring in other things. The only reason that we have had to table amendments to place safeguards is because the Government have brought forward proposals without adequate safeguards in the first place. I have certainly never voted while on a garden bench and I have more confidence that my fellow Members of the House of Lords are listening to the arguments and able to make an intelligent judgment. I hope that they will feel able to support us on this amendment, as they did on the last.

I am, however, grateful for the support of the noble Lords, Lord Vaux and Lord Sharkey, the noble Baronesses, Lady Altmann and Lady Janke, and the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham. The case for this amendment has been made overwhelmingly by my noble friend Lady Drake and other speakers, so I will not rehearse it in detail, but I was struck by her summary of the many complexities and challenges still to be dealt with in the dashboard project. These are building the architecture, sorting out the liability model, deciding how to compensate consumers for a detriment, managing data standards and data-sharing risks, identity verification and security, and behavioural responses. Basically, there is a lot yet to be decided, designed, operationalised and tested. The Government’s plan is to do all this with a public dashboard and commercial dashboards running alongside each other from the launch. It is our contention that that simply unnecessarily increases the risk.

The MaPS dashboard will be provided as a public service, free to use and free of commercial interests. It is surely therefore a much safer place to test all aspects of the dashboard service and governance before opening it up to commercial operations from the start. We believe that it will be better for consumers if, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, it is given space to establish itself before commercial players enter the game.

We know that this market is particularly vulnerable to consumer detriment. We know that bringing together all of a consumer’s data will increase the risk of poor behaviour by legitimate providers and scammers. We know that there are key issues to be resolved about how data is presented, to ensure that consumers are not manipulated towards decisions that are not in their best interests. When fully built, a dashboard could find and display the personal financial data of some 22 million people. Parliament needs to be confident that the public good and consumer interests are well served in its operation.

This amendment does not prevent commercial dashboards. It simply means that they would not start engaging with consumers until the public dashboard has been running for long enough to give Parliament some necessary assurance before enacting the authorisation of commercial dashboards which the Bill permits. All we are asking for is a year’s grace before commercial firms with, in many cases, an unavoidable conflict of interest are authorised to engage consumers on a new product built on consumer data that the Government have mandated be released. I do not think that that is too much to ask.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 7:45 pm, 30th June 2020

My Lords, there was general agreement in Committee that pension scheme members should have access to a dashboard service that is publicly owned and free of potential commercial imperatives. As we set out in Committee, the Government wholeheartedly agree that such a dashboard should be available to all users from day one, alongside dashboards offered by other organisations. We explained that the single financial guidance body, now known as the Money and Pensions Service, can provide a dashboard under its existing statutory functions, but I accept that the Government could provide further reassurance in legislation.

The government amendments reflect this commitment by placing a duty on the Money and Pensions Service to provide a pensions dashboard. The dashboard must display information from private and occupational pension schemes. These amendments also enable the inclusion of state pension information.

In addition, these amendments repurpose the provisions that were in new Section 4A(1)(b), as inserted by this clause, as new Section 4A(1A). The original purpose of these provisions, however, is unchanged. They make it clear that the Money and Pensions Service can carry out functions relating to the provision of qualifying pensions dashboard services by others as part of its pensions guidance function, including providing state pension information. This could, for example, include publishing data standards with which providers must comply.

The amendments also make minor consequential changes to Clauses 119 and 121, as well as to Schedule 9, which relates to Northern Ireland. The duty to provide a pensions dashboard will apply only once the necessary supporting technical architecture is in place and pension schemes are required to provide information to their members via dashboards. I therefore very much hope that the government amendments will be accepted when they are moved.

I will now respond to the amendments tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Sherlock and Lady Drake, on the Money and Pensions Service dashboard being the sole dashboard for at least 12 months. The Government have been clear throughout that offering consumers a choice of dashboards is the best way to increase engagement. Our position on this has not changed. Allowing consumers to access their pensions information in the way that they want to is key to putting people in control of their savings.

Having a period of exclusivity for the Money and Pensions Service dashboard, as is being suggested, would seem to achieve relatively little, other than to restrict people’s access to their own information through a route of their choosing. However, what we will not allow to happen is for any commercial dashboard to be launched before that of the Money and Pensions Service. I would like to be clear that the Money and Pensions Service dashboard will be available from day one, alongside dashboards offered by other organisations.

I invite the noble Baroness to note that the Money and Pensions Service has an existing legislative requirement, in the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018, to report to the Secretary of State annually on the achievement of its objectives and functions. This report is also laid before Parliament and will provide detailed information about the development, delivery and operation of dashboards.

The noble Baroness, Lady Drake, asked me about the liability model and whether we can guarantee that it will be ready before commercial dashboards can be used. The pensions dashboard programme will develop a robust liability model to ensure that there are clear roles and responsibilities in the event of a breach. This will be in place before the public launch of dashboards.

I hope I have given reassurance that there will be a publicly owned dashboard and that there is a range of reporting requirements that allows sufficient oversight of progress, not least in making sure that the functionality which will underpin all dashboards can be relied upon. I have to say that some noble Lords rather over-egged the argument of functionality risk.

The long and the short of it is that we remain strongly of the belief that multiple dashboards are the best way to ensure that everyone can access their pensions information in the way that they desire. Therefore, I respectfully ask the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, not to move her amendment when we come to it.

My noble friend Lord Young has tabled three amendments, covering the Money and Pensions Service dashboard, a date for the introduction of that dashboard, and the verification of identity. I am glad he agrees that the government amendment fully meets his desire for the Money and Pensions Service to provide a dashboard. On providing a timetable for delivery, we are all keen to see dashboards available as soon as possible. However, it is essential to get the design of the service right, to ensure that it provides accurate information and is secure and consumer focused.

On that point, I can assure my noble friend that the pensions dashboard programme put in place by the Money and Pensions Service is taking the necessary steps to deliver the dashboard architecture. In April, it published two papers relating to data. Having deferred consultation on these papers because of the impact of Covid-19, the programme will now run a call for input throughout July and August. It is also bringing together a data working group to finalise a set of data standards and requirements by the end of the year.

The programme is also making progress on the supporting dashboard infrastructure. On 22 June, it started a six-week market engagement exercise with potential suppliers of the supporting dashboard architecture for the pensions finder service and the governance register. This will help the programme to determine the most appropriate route to market in preparation for a formal procurement process, anticipated to start in autumn this year.

Finalising the data standards and the procurement route is key to informing the timetable for delivery. However, it is essential that we do not force upon the Money and Pensions Service an arbitrary timetable set by legislation. I hope that, on reflection, my noble friend will come round to that view.

I understand that my noble friend wants to maintain momentum, and I agree with that. Alongside the annual report by the Money and Pensions Service, which I mentioned, the pensions dashboard programme has committed to publishing a progress update every six months, for the length of the programme. It will also set out a detailed timetable for delivery by the end of the year.

My noble friend also brought us back to the issue of digital identity and how a user of a dashboard is verified. In the March 2020 Budget, the Government reiterated their commitment to the creation of a ubiquitous digital identity market. To achieve this, they created the digital identity unit, which is a collaboration between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Cabinet Office.

As my noble friend rightly said, an identity verification service is an essential component of the dashboards infrastructure. It will provide the verification required to assure pension schemes—the data providers—that they are returning data to the correct user and to nobody else. The verification service must also meet the needs of users, enabling them to verify their identity without undue difficulty.

On a point raised by my noble friend about funding, I say that the pensions dashboard service, including ID verification, will be free at the point of use for individuals. The identify verification service for dashboards will be managed centrally as part of the supporting infrastructure, as I indicated. Funding options will be carefully considered as part of any proposed solution on identity.

As outlined in the progress update report published in April, the pensions dashboard programme will need to source a functioning, workable identity verification service. It is working with the digital identity unit and the supplier market to explore potential solutions for dashboards. These solutions will be based on managing and mitigating the type of risks associated with dashboards. Developing their requirements will enable the pensions dashboard programme to assess the suitability of available products against robust success criteria.

I say to my noble friend that we understand the need for progress on the delivery of dashboards; we recognise the need for a safe and secure method for verifying someone’s identity, and we understand how important this will be for the success of the dashboard concept. While I can go no further than that, I hope that I have said enough to convince him that his concerns are squarely on the radar, and that he will accordingly feel able to withdraw his Amendment 53.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Deputy Chairman of Committees

I have received no requests for noble Lords to speak, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Young.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Conservative

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, not least my noble friend Lord Howe for his response to the issues raised. I repeat the welcome given by all those who spoke to the government amendments, which in effect oblige MaPS to provide a dashboard. I make it clear that I do not propose to press any of the amendments in my name to a Division.

On identity, I note the new joint unit between DCMS and the Cabinet Office to come up with a digital verification process. It sounds a little like the exercise that was started in 2014 to initiate the Verify programme, which had the same objective. I only hope that this initiative is more successful.

On funding, there was a sentence in my noble friend’s response that I did not have time to write down in full, but it sounded as if it came from the Treasury: that funding options would be considered as part of a range of solutions. I would like to look a little further at that, but I welcome the reassurance that there will be no charge to the consumer. I am grateful that he recognised the importance of getting the identity verification process right as a precondition for a successful dashboard.

On the date, I say with respect that we heard a lot from my noble friend about “day one” but nothing about “day when”. We are no further forward in having any idea as to when the pensions dashboard will be up and running. I look forward to the six-monthly progress reports and I welcome what he said about recognising the urgency of getting the system up and running.

I think that we had a new commitment from my noble friend this evening which I welcome, which was that no one would be able to provide a pensions dashboard before MaPS. I am not sure that we have had that before. I wonder whether there will be some legislative underpinning of that commitment, which I would very much welcome.

The bulk of the debate was on Amendment 63. The majority of those who spoke, led by the noble Baronesses, Lady Drake, Lady Janke and Lady Sherlock, my noble friend Lady Altmann, and the noble Lords, Lord Vaux and Lord Sharkey, all wanted, in the interest of consumer protection, MaPS to have a head start so that it could be trialled and tested. My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe put the contrary view that there should be a more market-based approach to the dashboards without an inside track for the public sector. I do not propose to support the amendment in a vote, but my view is that it would be best if MaPS made it absolutely clear that it plans to be up there, using all its advantages, ahead of the field to set the pace. However, I understand the arguments and I suspect that when it comes to a Division the Government may be obliged to rethink whether this is something they really want to go to the stake on, or whether it is something that they can live with. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 53.

Amendment 53 withdrawn.

Clause 119: Information from occupational pension schemes