Functions

Part of Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 1st February 2018.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions) 12:30 pm, 1st February 2018

The lead amendment defines a pensions dashboard. It would require the single financial guidance body to provide for the public a pensions dashboard as part of its pension guidance function.

The idea of a pensions dashboard as a one-stop shop, enabling people to look at their pension scheme assets in one place, has been considered for a long time. We should have introduced one years ago. Many people across the country have very little idea of the value of their pension schemes—they may be in multiple schemes, and as a result they may have no idea what the returns might be. Pensions are a grey area for millions of people who believe they do not need to worry about it in the here and now, and that they will be able to deal with it when the time comes, but that is simply not the best or the most productive approach.

If someone has a solid awareness of the state their pension schemes, they have a much better insight into their future earnings after they retire, and they know whether they should put more—or perhaps, on occasion, less—money into their pension pot now. Crucially, this is about getting people to look forward and save for the future. A person moving jobs may have up to 11 small pension pots—that was the case for somebody I encountered recently—but perhaps only one provider has up-to-date details about them.

Government policy needs to be clear about whether and how the use of the dashboard can measurably reduce the small pots problem, and improve the position of savers whose funds are sitting in legacy products that offer poor value. We should introduce a pensions dashboard as a single public service dashboard overseen and hosted by the new single financial guidance body. It should be a safe viewing place, where an individual can see all the necessary information on their state and other pensions savings.

Although we did not press the amendment to a vote on Second Reading—indeed, depending on the Minister’s response, we may not do so today—we raised this issue because we urge the Government to look at making it a statutory duty, including for pension providers, to engage with the publicly owned dashboard, and thus to ensure that everyone has a complete picture of their pension situation when using it. The data should only be visible one way. Pension providers should not be able to see an individual’s pension dashboard. They must, however, be obliged to provide data towards it. If the direction of travel is in favour of a pensions dashboard—if that is common ground—the issue of what I describe as a duty to co-operate with the new mechanism is of the highest importance. If the dashboard is to be successful, all providers must release their data into it, although there still are some big, significant questions to be answered about governance, implementation and consumer protection —I would be the first to accept that—before the Government can move to compel all providers to provide the data that the industry is calling for.

Within the dashboard, there should be a pension finder service—an engine that sends out messages to search the records of all providers and schemes to see whether there is a match for the customer’s details. The engine would then collect that data to populate the consumer’s front-end viewing space.

The data of millions would be accessible through the dashboard, so I stress again: high standards, tough regulation and sound governance will be required to ensure that there is no abuse of a mechanism that is absolutely crucial to help people plan for the future. There are problems to be overcome, but a dashboard can make pensions guidance more effective. Individuals would have greater knowledge, which would improve the guidance conversation, with less time spent on working out what people have and more on giving the quality guidance that they need.

The direction of travel is common ground. We ask the Minister to brief the Committee on where the Government’s plans have reached, and I will respond accordingly.