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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Martin Lewis:

Young people are interested in buying a house, but it won’t be their financial priority. For many of the young people who have help to buy ISAs, it is money put in by their parents, and we need to be straight on that. That has a distributional impact too, because the people who are able to do that are people whose parents have the spare money, and you have to question whether that is right or wrong.

With help to buy ISAs, it depends on your definition of young people. It is a great product for 18-to-30s. If that is “young people”, it is a good product, and potentially, once they have started saving in their lifetime ISA, they may then continue it for their retirement savings. I again sound the caution, because of auto-enrolment, that we want it to be a complement, as opposed to an either/or.

There are problems with the help to buy ISA. I cannot put more than £5,000 a year into it, so I then have to have another ISA product. I would not mandate that all providers had to do that, because if you did, we would have lower interest rates on the lifetime ISA than we would have otherwise in the savings version.

As an aside, I have to tell you that when I tweeted and Facebooked that I was coming here today, the big point that everybody made was that I should tell you—I’m sure you know this, but I will tell you anyway—that interest rates are horrendous. People cannot earn money on their savings. You are helping two small blocks at the moment. People feel that our interest rate policy is penalising savers right now. Even with all the tricks in the world that I can play, we have worked out that you can put £35,000 away at 2% interest. That is the best you can get with every single trick in the book played. That is it right now. That is horrendous—a disincentive to save. Of course, a 25%, 55% or 50% bonus is a great encouragement on the back of that, but savings in the United Kingdom at the moment are in a crisis that we have never seen before, and there is a bigger picture here than the two Government-supported saving schemes—I am aware what this Bill Committee is for—that are going on right now.

The honest truth is that this will encourage some, but it will not encourage many. Children’s savings—even Halifax Kids’ Regular Saver, the last bastion of good rates for children at 6%, has now dropped down to 4%. There are big issues in the savings market, and this won’t fix them. This will help some people.