Examination of Witnesses

Part of Savings (Government Contributions) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:27 pm on 25th October 2016.

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Jonquil Lowe:

No, we do not. That is the short answer. Martin touched on this: is the money being given to the right people? Certainly the lifetime ISA is less regressive than the existing system of pension tax reliefs, in that it gives a flat-rate 25% bonus to everybody. However, we still think that this is a very regressive way to use taxpayers’ money. Simply making a product available to everyone does not make it gender-neutral. You also need to take into account people’s opportunity to take up these products.

The lifetime ISA targets people who can already afford to save. There are huge swathes of people, mainly women but some men, who are contributing to the economy in the form of unpaid work, rather than paid work. Their decisions on care—caring for children and adults—mean that they are more likely to be in part-time work and are more likely to have periods out of work. When in work, they are more likely to be in sectors where their earnings are low, which tends to affect them not just at that time but for the rest of their working life. It is much more difficult for women to take advantage of these products, so we do not really see the lifetime ISA as a solution to women’s poverty.

We are also concerned, as Martin said, that the lifetime ISA may be a simple product, but it throws up complex decisions. The worry is that people may well choose to go with the lifetime ISA, rather than a pension, simply because it seems a simple product and they feel that they have more control, but in doing so, they are going to lose the employer’s contribution under automatic enrolment. They will be making decisions that are actually not in their best interests, which is a concern to us.