Examination of Witnesses

Savings (Government Contributions) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:01 am on 25th October 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Carol Knight and Yvonne Braun gave evidence.

Good morning, everybody. We will now resume our public sitting and we will hear evidence from the Tax Incentivised Savings Association and the Association of British Insurers.

I remind Members that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill and that this session of questions cannot go beyond 10.45 am.

Will the witnesses please introduce themselves? Carol Knight first.

Carol Knight:

Good morning. I am Carol Knight, the chief operations officer of the Tax Incentivised Savings Association.

Can I straight away say that you will have to raise your voice a bit more than that, because the acoustics in this room are notoriously bad?

Yvonne Braun:

I am Yvonne Braun. I am director of policy, long-term savings and protection at the ABI.

Thank you. I think Peter Dowd has the first question.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

This is to Ms Knight. In a press release response to the Budget, you welcomed the lifetime individual savings account and said:Q

“The Lifetime ISA will encourage further tax-exempt saving and a dedicated account to save for a home and save for retirement.”

How do you perceive the marketing of the LISA in relation to traditional pension products?

Carol Knight:

We do not really see the lifetime ISA as a direct competitor to pensions. We believe there is a cohort of the public for which the LISA will be an attractive proposition, particularly those who are in low-paid income and who fall outside the bracket for auto-enrolment. Self-employed people have an opportunity with the LISA that is not available with a workplace pension. So we believe there are a number of people who would be attracted by a matching proposition and who do not automatically have the opportunity to benefit necessarily from a pension product.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Ms Braun, would you like to comment on that question?

Yvonne Braun:

For us, what is most important is that there is no confusion between automatic enrolment and the lifetime ISA, so we see it as a complementary product. What is quite important is how it is communicated to people, particularly employees, because we are very clear that there is no employee who will be better off if they switch out of their automatic enrolment pension into a LISA, because with automatic enrolment in a workplace pension scheme they get the employer contributions. If they decide to switch out of that into a LISA, they would lose quite a lot; in fact, we calculated that they could lose up to a third once they get to the age of 60. We think that is really, really important. Communication will also be very critical by the Government, by the guidance services and through providers themselves.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Q You mentioned the potential confusion. How do you think that could be avoided, because there is concern that these things will either meld or send out a confusing message?

Yvonne Braun:

I think there are a number of mechanisms, such as what the Government put forward in terms of what the LISA is for, but also using the new guidance service, which will be the successor to the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and so on and so forth in 2018. That could also steer people and help them to make the right decision for their circumstances because, as Carol just said, for some people—the self-employed, people who have already maxed out the employer contributions on their pensions or people who may be fortunate enough already to have used up their annual allowance—it is a very positive thing, but it is important that every person makes a decision based on their own circumstances. For most people, switching out of a pension into a LISA will be a very bad decision.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Q To follow up on Carol’s comment earlier, you have expressed disappointment about the early withdrawal charges.

Peter, sorry, can you please project your voice? There may be people at the back and at this end who are finding it hard to hear.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Okay. In the past you have expressed disappointment about early withdrawal charges. What would you suggest instead?

Carol Knight:

We believe that the necessity to pay back a bonus if money is withdrawn outside the allowed circumstances is a great enough disincentive to withdrawal at inappropriate times. We believe that the 5% charge across the whole of a savings account is disproportionately difficult, particularly if we are looking at this as a product for people who are low paid and accessing a savings product that they would not use other products for, because of the 25% bonus.

A person’s life circumstances might mean that suddenly they have a need to take their money out. There are all sorts of events that happen during the course of a life, when someone has an urgent need to get some cash to help them through difficult times—for example, being made redundant. To have a 5% charge seems to us to be an inappropriate and harsh penalty to pay. We understand that it is there to encourage people to keep their money in it. As Yvonne said, we would not want to see the LISA used as an alternative to a pension. We believe that it is a complementary product, so keeping the distinction between the two is important. However, we feel that that can be addressed by means such as having to pay back the bonus, rather than having a 5% charge across the whole account.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Q Okay. It has been reported that many financial providers may not want or be able to offer a lifetime ISA by the time of its launch. Some have ruled out participating in it altogether. What is your organisation’s view on that?

Carol Knight:

There are some organisations that will be ready in April. There is always the need for a lead-in period for people to get systems in place and get trained. To have clarity on the guidance and regulations at the earliest possible opportunity is critical. We have had a short lead-in period for this particular product and some people will be ready, some will not—unfortunately, that is the nature of the game.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Q Do you think that the proposed lead-in time is reasonable?

Carol Knight:

We would normally ask for a year, but we have not had that opportunity this time.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Q I will come to Ms Braun in a second, but on that point, what is your assessment of the awareness of employees and employers of this particular scheme—the lifetime ISA? It is a short run-in period.

Carol Knight:

We do not think it will affect employers. This is a personal individual savings account. We do not see it being marketed as an alternative to auto-enrolment. We do not necessarily see it being offered by employers.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Q How about awareness, given that you think the run-in period is pretty tight?

Carol Knight:

Yes. The publicity to get the scheme in place is important for the public as well as for the industry. There has been a lot of publicity about it. Getting that clarification for people is really important, but the whole question of advice and guidance needs addressing. There is a lot of work going on in other areas looking at this, but it is really important to put more work into enabling people to get the information they need to make informed decisions. Those need to run hand in hand alongside each other.

Yvonne Braun:

If I could come back on the lead-in times you mentioned, this was announced at the last fiscal event in April, to be coming into force next April. As the Tax Incentivised Savings Association has done, we have worked with the Treasury and HMRC officials over the summer, to understand better how the detail will work. We are still waiting for clarity from the Financial Conduct Authority about what the conduct rules are going to be. That inevitably puts pressure on providers who are trying to get this ready for next April. As I have said publicly, there will be quite a few who will not be ready for next April. That does not mean that they do not want to offer it, just that from the perspective of their own lead time and systems build time, they need longer.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

Q I will ask you both to answer this one, if I may. Would you welcome a deferral for a period of time, beyond the suggested introduction date?

Yvonne Braun:

In terms of the monthly bonus contributions from Government, there is an argument to defer it until April 2018.

Carol Knight:

At this point in the game, a lot of people have put a lot of work into getting it delivered for April 2017, so a change at this point is going to be detrimental to those firms. I think it is too late in the game to make that change, personally.

Photo of Melanie Onn Melanie Onn Labour, Great Grimsby

I wonderQ whether I could follow up on the point about some financial providers choosing not to participate in the scheme at all. Do you have any further information on that? Do you have any percentage figures for organisations that are either not going to be ready or are not choosing to participate in the scheme at all?

Yvonne Braun:

No, I don’t.

Photo of Jeremy Quin Jeremy Quin Conservative, Horsham

May I pick up on a couple of points made by the witnesses? First, a powerful point was made that, although auto-enrolment has been a success, the self-employed do not have access to it, and this is an option, a vehicle, for the self-employed to improve their long-term savings. Could you expand on that?Q

Carol Knight:

I think that is absolutely true. However, some of the data from the Office for National Statistics indicates that 15% of our workforce are self-employed. But of that 15%, over 50% are over 50 years old, so the lifetime ISA is not a vehicle available to them. To enable those people to benefit from it, there is an opportunity to expand the age at which you can open a lifetime ISA.

Yvonne Braun:

I would make exactly that point. A lot of self-employed people do not fit the age restrictions on the product, so for them it is not going to be available. Of course, if they are higher rate taxpayers, the pension tax relief on offer to them looks better than the bonus they would have received under the lifetime ISA. That is also worth saying: for self-employed people, the lifetime ISA is particularly attractive if they are basic rate taxpayers, but not so much if they are higher rate taxpayers.

Photo of Jeremy Quin Jeremy Quin Conservative, Horsham

Q I am grateful—it is 15% and 50%. I am a glass-half-full type of person, but I am sure the points were noted.

The other point I want to tease out is the reference to not everybody being ready, and the potential for delay. Hearing what Carol was saying, in particular, I take it that there is no sign that there will be an insufficient number of people to provide a market. There will be a market, and if people have to catch up they will have to catch up. We are offering a good product at an early stage—would that be fair?

Yvonne Braun:

That is absolutely right. Our members very much want to make this work for their customers.

Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions)

A lotQ has been said about auto-enrolment and those who have been left behind in the process up till now—the self-employed. Given that we know there is going to be a review of auto-enrolment in 2017, is there an argument for postponing this until we deal with auto-enrolment and those who need to be included?

Carol Knight:

Not necessarily, no. We need to monitor the effects, without a doubt. We need to look at the take-up of auto-enrolment to see whether there is any discernible drop-out and a corresponding number of people going into the LISA. There are so many unknowns with auto-enrolment that it is difficult to say that we should postpone the LISA because of that.

There are a lot of people who are not going to get caught by auto-enrolment. One of my biggest concerns is about people who earn too little to even fall into that bracket. An increasing number of people have multiple income streams, each of which is too low to get caught. Auto-enrolment is not going to solve the problem for them, but a lifetime ISA could.

Yvonne Braun:

I think that question of people with multiple employment will be one that we will have to return to in the automatic enrolment review, because I think that is the very point of the review—to see whether some tweaks need to be made to make it work better for more people.

The point that Carol made about monitoring the outcome is absolutely right. I think the view has been expressed that the risk of higher opt-out rates from automatic enrolment is small, because that has not occurred with the introduction of the help to buy ISA. However, I think it is important to remember that the help to buy ISA is quite a different proposition, because the maximum bonus is much, much lower, and also the bonus is not paid into the actual account, whereas here it actually goes into the individual’s account. So I think the experience with the help to buy ISA should not give us false comfort that the lifetime ISA will not have an impact on automatic enrolment.

It will be really important that we look at what happens from next April, when the lifetime ISA is introduced, and, as I said earlier, it will also be really important that the information and guidance that people receive is very, very clear about the importance of the employer contribution and about not losing that through a switch into a lifetime ISA.

Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions)

Q How concerned would you be on that issue, Yvonne, particularly given what you said previously—that nobody will be better off with an ISA than they would be with investing in a pension scheme? I think that the figures that you gave to the Work and Pensions Committee were quite illuminating, because they demonstrated that someone earning £25,000 a year and putting 4% of their salary in over a 40-year period would be 33% worse off with a LISA. How concerned are you that people may be seduced into investing in a LISA over the opportunities and the benefits of investing in a pension?

Yvonne Braun:

I think that is absolutely not the intention of the policy, because the Government have been very clear, from day one, that the LISA was not intended to supplant automatic enrolment but was intended to work as a complement to it. I think that if we can stay with that, and if the communication to people is clear on that point, then that risk is mitigated, although we should still monitor what actually happens on the ground, because it is easy to get confused about the numbers. We are talking about 25% Government bonus, which sounds better than 20% basic rate tax relief but is in fact exactly the same.

So clarity of the message is really important in all of this, and as I said, we think it is important that we use the guidance services for that, and also that the work that is done by the financial advice market review on rules of thumb considers what could be communicated to people about a workplace pension vis-à-vis a lifetime ISA. I think the two should be seen as the lifetime ISA being on top of—in addition to—the workplace pension, rather than there being some sort of binary choice.

Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions)

Q In order to achieve that, how would you architect the guidance and advice that consumers need to get, to make sure that they don’t fall into the trap of investing in an ISA when a pension would be better for them?

Yvonne Braun:

I think there needs to be a strong signpost towards the guidance services, and the guidance services need to be clear about the complementary nature of the two products—that it is not an either/or, much like it should not really be an either/or for people whether they save for retirement or for a house deposit.

Photo of Eilidh Whiteford Eilidh Whiteford Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Social Justice and Welfare)

IQ want to continue along very similar lines to the previous questioner, because I was also very struck by the evidence that the Association of British Insurers submitted to the Work and Pensions Committee. I particularly note that a £25,000-a-year salary would be roughly the average female salary in this country. There has also been quite a lot of talk today about people on lower incomes, and it seems to me quite striking that if you are a person on an average or below-average salary, it is unlikely that you are going to “max out” your employer contributions or your annual allowance in any given year. So it does not seem to me that there are many advantages for a low or average-wage person in the LISA, and it seems that they would be better advised to invest in a pension. Looking at the discrepancy pointed out in the evidence, that could be £53,000 over a lifetime’s saving. Is it really advisable from a financial perspective to encourage anyone to invest in a LISA if they are on a low or average income?

Yvonne Braun:

I think what is also important here is that we consider people’s individual choices. As long as people are clear about what they are giving up, we cannot stop them from potentially opting for a lifetime ISA if that makes sense. Ultimately, this is about giving people more options—that is the intention—but I think there has to be a very clear message of, “If you opt for a lifetime ISA over a workplace pension, the downsides look like that.” That is quite important to draw out.

Carol Knight:

That is absolutely right. When you are looking at a workplace pension where you have got the employer contribution going in, that definitely changes the dynamic. So I think it would be very hard to justify anyone using a LISA as an alternative to that because of that extra contribution going in. However, for people for whom that is not an option—those people may be comparatively young and not necessarily have any sure view of how their life is going to pan out—the concept of putting money into a pension that is completely locked away might just stop them saving altogether, because their lifestyle is such that they want the option to be able to have access to money at a point at which they need it, and within a pension they cannot do that. The lifetime ISA gives them that flexibility, where they have the opportunity to save money and the opportunity for a 25% bonus that is easy to understand—matching contributions is an easy concept—and, if their lifestyle is such that a crisis arises where they need access to money, they can get to it. The lifetime ISA will give them that, but a pension will not.

Photo of Eilidh Whiteford Eilidh Whiteford Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Social Justice and Welfare)

Q Would you agree that there is a serious risk of mis-selling in this context?

Carol Knight:

There is always that risk. It is down to how it is communicated to people, and I think that clear, simple guidelines are going to be really important for people to help them understand the difference between the two and the benefits of both.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

This is continuing on the same point but looking at it from the other point of view, as someone who has been involved in the housing market a lot. Surely it is not unreasonable that a young person who lives in an area where property is very expensive has an opportunity at last for their savings to be protected, other than in extreme circumstances, from house price inflation, and to be able to play catch-up. The biggest problem in the boom years was that you could save, but prices would be roaring ahead of what you could realistically save. Therefore, quite understandably, someone in that position who is many decades from retirement might think to themselves, “I’m going to put everything into this, because I am desperate to get a home. It is very expensive, but this is an opportunity.” To me, it is surely not unreasonable for someone in that position to make that choiceQ .

Yvonne Braun:

As long as they are clear about what is involved—to me that is the key.

Carol Knight:

I think a lot of evidence shows that for a lot of young people the focus is their home, without a doubt.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

Q Obviously if someone gets on the property ladder with a capital repayment mortgage at the age of, say, 25, in theory when they retire they should not have any housing costs—that was the old idea. So we should remember that there is an extra benefit in this. There are many other benefits to home ownership and many aspirations, but I take your point that we have to have the advice in such a way that anyone making the choice knows what the choices are. That, as always, will be the challenge.

Yvonne Braun:

I think there is an additional point that it is important not to overlook. We know that the earlier you start retirement saving, the less effort you have to make later. If you start at 20—the rule of thumb always is that it is about half your age when you start saving—it will cost you an awful lot less and it will be an awful lot less painful to save for retirement than if you start at 30 or 40. That has to be in the equation for people. Actually, at the moment opt-out rates are lowest for young people, so automatic enrolment has worked very well for young people especially, and it is important that that success story does not get stopped.

Carol Knight:

I think that is absolutely right. When you look at the savings culture in this country, a lot of savings go into cash and a comparatively small percentage go into investment. It is difficult for people to understand the investment cycle, and they are scared of it because it is not easy to understand. In something like auto-enrolment, it is done for you. It is a nice, easy way to enable people to move into that market. If you can inculcate a savings habit at an early age, it gives them a really good building base to go on. Auto-enrolment does provide people with that platform to get into an investment environment that they may be a little wary of going into individually. That is why we think that the lifetime ISA is complementary rather than “instead of”, because you have to choose that actively, whereas auto-enrolment is there for you if you are in that cohort of people who are caught.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

I am concerned about the whole idea of persuading people to save when they are young. Is it not the sensible way forward to have a compulsory state scheme for everybody based on income? Young people with either high rent or a mortgage or children are constantly up against it financially—even those with an income better than £23,000 a year, which is a tiny amount for mortgages in particular. Is it not time to say that the Government have got it completely wrong, that all these complicated schemes will not actually benefit the people who really need help—those on low incomes with high expenditures they have to meet—and that replacing all those schemes with a compulsory state scheme with defined contributions and benefits at the end would be much better? If the better-off want to go and invest somewhere else, that is fine, but we are talking about ordinary people on relatively low incomes. Do tell the Government that they have got it completely wrong if you want to—no need to be too politeQ .

Carol Knight:

Would you like that honour, Yvonne?

Yvonne Braun:

I think that is the state pension, though. Ultimately the state pension is your safety net. Everybody is going to get the same, and especially for people on lower incomes, the state pension provides quite a good replacement rate.

If we look at some of the projections that the Department for Work and Pensions did, I think, two years ago when it looked at the adequacy problem in the population at different salary ranges, it found that the problem is between £22,000 and £52,000 of annual income. Lower than that, you have a lot of replacement income through the state pension, and higher than that people can usually sort themselves out. So that is where additional savings are more important.

I would say that the Government have not got it wrong. Automatic enrolment is a very good policy, and making it compulsory is also perhaps not terribly British, I suppose. The state pension provides the underpinning that you describe of an income that is there for everybody as a safety net.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

Q But the state pension is not earnings-related; it is for everyone. I agree with you—a much higher basic state pension would be a good idea as well—but earnings-related income on top of that means that those on better incomes do not suddenly drop down to the basic state pension when they reach retirement. They are compelled to save so that they can have a comfortable retirement.

Yvonne Braun:

That is in many ways how automatic enrolment is supposed to work—it is a percentage of salary, so people with higher salaries will contribute more. There is then a question about whether 8%, as it is meant to end up in 2019, is the right percentage. We firmly believe it is not; it should be quite a bit more. That is the subject of the automatic enrolment review that will happen next year.

At this point I would not argue that it needs to be compulsory. Because the opt-out rates are so low, there is a question as to why you would go for a compulsory savings scheme.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

Q I have just one more question. If it were a compulsory state scheme with defined benefits, it would not be stock market-related; it would be a state fund. It would be extremely efficient, like national insurance is extremely efficient in how it works, and the whole thing would be better for those retiring at the end of their working lives and also provide a wonderful fund for Government investment in infrastructure or whatever, which would have returns. It is not a new idea. Barbara Castle, a great hero of mine, was talking about this sort of thing 40 years ago, and we are still fiddling around with all sorts of complicated schemes that do not actually provide the benefits that they should.

Yvonne Braun:

I doubt that the Government would wish to take that on their balance sheet.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

Q I agree that the Government would not wish to do it for other reasons, but would it not be a sensible idea?

Carol Knight:

I think it is a fiscal question more than anything else. It is a hard one to justify, if you could actually cover those costs.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer Conservative, South East Cambridgeshire

The Bill provides that you can take your savings out to buy your first home. Are there any other circumstances in which you think you ought to be able to take your money outQ ?

Carol Knight:

Yes. We ran a survey to get feedback from consumers and the industry. There were two, or maybe three, other areas where the feedback indicated that including additional lifetime events would be beneficial. One was critical illness and the other was redundancy. Those are incidents that are outside people’s control and that place a huge demand on finances. The other one was buying a second home, too. It is not just about your first-time purchase, but when you start a family and want to move on. Those are three additional lifetime events that we believe could be incorporated within the scheme.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer Conservative, South East Cambridgeshire

Q If you were an independent financial adviser and you were assessing the risk for a client, on a scale of one to 10, where 10 is the most risky and one is the least risky, what would you assess the risk as?

Yvonne Braun:

The risk of?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

How risky is the investment?

Carol Knight:

A lifetime ISA can have anything within it, so the risk would be determined by the assets you choose to put in it. They will go from low to high. There is no restriction on the investments that can go into a lifetime ISA. It depends on what you choose to put in it, really.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer Conservative, South East Cambridgeshire

Is there anything that you would like to add?

Yvonne Braun:

I completely agree that it will depend on the asset mix in the lifetime ISA. I am sure that an adviser would also take into account that 25% will be added, which will help to balance out the risk a bit. We are not sure that, beyond a first home purchase and terminal illness, which are currently in the Bill, additional lifetime events need to be included. If you take redundancy, there are other savings vehicles for that, so I am not necessarily sure that the state needs to step in with a Government contribution to support that. I would probably say the same for buying a second home—I take it that by that you do not mean buying an additional home, but moving the next step up and buying a bigger home.

Carol Knight:

Not a holiday home, no.

Yvonne Braun:

I think that the main pressure point in terms of housing seems to be for people to get on to the housing ladder in the first place because they are taking so long to get their deposit together. I think that issue is alleviated once people make the second step up.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

I want to pick up on something that Ms Knight said, and I have two questions as a result. First, the complexity of this product has been talked about. If you add the critical illness and redundancy rationales for withdrawal, have you not just made it more complex and are you not turning it more into an assurance or insurance-based product as a resultQ ?

Carol Knight:

I think it depends on how much you want to support people going through their life, and if it is going to be the fundamental of the lifetime ISA to help fund those important events as people go through them. It is a balancing game, really.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

Q The second point was with regard to your suggestion to permit the product to be used for second home owners. Is there not a danger that we already have challenges as it is with first-time buyers getting into the housing market? Effectively giving Government subsidies to help second home purchasers would perhaps strike some as a bit much. What is your observation on that comment?

Carol Knight:

Housing is a big problem in this country, without a doubt, and I think it needs to be part and parcel of a much bigger picture. People use housing as part of their retirement planning, which is an important factor to throw in. When you talk to people about how they are going to fund their retirement, the value of their house is very often part of that. The whole question of how housing is used as a source of income on retirement is very important.

It is very difficult for people to get a clear view of how much income they can take out of their home at the point of retirement. If they are not in a position where they can gradually build the value of their home during their working life, they will have less available through an equity release product or whatever mechanism is available to them. They will have less available in the way of funds for retirement. It is part and parcel of a much bigger picture. We should be looking at retirement saving as a whole and helping people to put different types of assets towards funding later life.

Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions)

Q I want to come back to the issue of risk. We all know that when you invest in a pension scheme, the trustees will then look at the appreciation of risk that you would expect to take on board. They obviously look at the timeline of when you expect to retire and gear any assets according to that assessment.

If we have a situation here where an individual can invest in an ISA, and can invest up to 100% in equities, they may decide to draw down that pot at any time for a particular type of event. We know that there is always a risk of a downturn in the market. Most actuaries will tell you there is a one in seven year risk of a downturn in the market. Are we not inadvertently exposing consumers to risk? Does it not come back to the point that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan that we are exposing consumers to risk, not just of mis-selling, but of investing in an asset where there could be a risk of a downturn in the market seriously impacting the choices that they then make?

Carol Knight:

There is always that risk, but I do not think we are looking at the lifetime ISA as an alternative to a pension. We are looking at it as complementary to a pension. Firstly, the lifetime ISA could go into a cash ISA, but as a long-term savings product it is generally accepted that cash is not necessarily the best way to do that. Again, it points to getting good guidance and information to people to help them make informed decisions as to the type of assets they are going to put into that product.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

Q You have talked about some of the issues around signposting and also discussed the pros and cons versus pensions. That is clearly a very big issue. This issue is not quite as big, but do you have any views about the LISA versus the help to buy ISA, and any potential confusion that could cause in the minds of first-time buyers?

Yvonne Braun:

As I understand it, the help to buy ISA lapses in 2019. This is the successor vehicle. It is important that the lifetime ISA, from the perspective of a house purchaser, is structured in a much more attractive way, because you actually get the payment of the Government contribution into your account, whereas with the help to buy ISA, the Government contribution goes through your conveyancer or solicitor towards the house purchase. It is a completely different ball game.

This is why I was saying it is difficult to draw comfort from the experience with automatic enrolment and the help to buy ISA, because it is not as attractive as the lifetime ISA. But yes, I see it as a successor vehicle. There is still a question around the transition and transfer of funds that sit in help to buy ISAs into lifetime ISAs, but I am sure that will be resolved.

Carol Knight:

The other difference is that the help to buy ISA is just a cash ISA, whereas within a lifetime ISA you can have investments which, in the longer term, are generally considered to be a better option.

I am afraid that brings us to the end of the session. On behalf of the Committee, I thank the witnesses for assisting us in the way that they have.