Scheme funder of last resort

Part of Pension Schemes Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 7 February 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions) 11:15, 7 February 2017

My hon. Friend is correct. People want to know that everything is 100% safe. I know that the Minister said that we can never guarantee 100% safety, but we are talking about some of our society’s most financially vulnerable people who are investing relatively small amounts of money in their master trust. They are not going to get a tremendous pension—nothing like what a Member of Parliament receives—but they want to know that their small pot will actually mean something for them. That is why we must have those protections.

We were talking about regularly monitored business. How regular—every three months, every two years, every five years?—and what type of monitoring? Can the Government say for certain that, by the time the regulator has identified a problem with record management, it will still be within the timeframe to resolve the issue without a funder of last resort?

The Government argue that the Bill already achieves what clause 9 is trying to achieve, but I must question the real reason why they do not want it in the Bill. If they support the idea of master trusts having regulations in place to avoid a disastrous situation if one failed, why will they not just support the clause? If they are so sure that it would never reach the stage of needing a funder of last resort, what is their opposition to including the clause just to ensure that, in a worst-case scenario when things do not go to plan, there is extra protection in place? Unless, of course, they are ideologically opposed to the concept of a funder of last resort. It would be a safety net; a guarantee from the Government that they will need to do everything in their power to protect workers’ retirement funds. If that is the case, I am disappointed that the Government do not believe that it is their duty to step in when business fails and that they would leave innocent people paying the price.

One argument that the Government Lords kept repeating was that, in the event of regulatory failure and a trust not having the means to finance a wind-up, it will not be members that will have to pay the price, but the Government are yet to tell us who it will be. When a number of master trusts and pension experts are calling for there to be a funder of last resort, why are the Government not listening? We have heard a lot of words in the other place and here today, but we have seen not action. Verbal assurance is not good enough when we are talking about people’s livelihoods in older age. We need action and robust legislation to ensure that we take every precaution. In the absence of greater clarity about the Government’s insistence that the Bill already addresses areas raised in this debate, it is vital that clause 9 is not removed. We should be covering every base in order to say confidently that we have taken every possible measure to protect members’ money 100%.