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e: robert@robertcourts.co.uk
30 JAN 2017

Pension Schemes Bill

I spoke in this important debate on pensions.

The Government's strides towards automatic enrolment have gone a great way, but there is a need for further work.  The types of master trust available are important, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Their concerns are regulation and the steps that they have to go through. Master trusts give them a way to deal with those matters very quickly, because administration costs are pooled and one group of trustees manages a scheme. Not all ​employers will wish to set up their own scheme, so master trusts help them greatly. Master trusts are a neat solution for smaller employers, for whom setting up an individual scheme would be a burden. We need the Bill, because the previous reforms have led to the master trusts being a great success. So far, more than 7 million people have been enrolled in a workplace pension by more than 370,000 employers, and total assets of £10 billion are being managed. As the programme rolls out to smaller employers during 2018, we expect that to increase so that an estimated 10 million workers will be newly saving, or saving more, in those workplace pensions. That will have generated £17 million per annum in additional pension savings by 2019-2020.

Action must be taken now, because the increased saving is taking place against a legislative and regulatory framework that was designed for 2010, when some 200,000 members were taking part in master trust schemes; now the figure is some 7 million. The regulatory framework was designed with single-employer schemes in mind, but master trusts operate on a different scale and with very different dynamics. The first part of the Bill will help to deal with that.

The second part of the Bill deals with early exit charges. In 2014, the Government brought in major changes to pensions, which have allowed 232,000 people to access flexible payments and exercise their right to use their money in the way they see fit. More than 1.5 million payments have been made, with £9.2 billion withdrawn in the first 21 months. Some schemes impose costs on people when they withdraw their money to use as they see fit, and the Bill is designed to address that.

I support the Bill, because I believe it will  increase confidence in saving and confidence in pensions, protect savers, and it will enable them to take full advantage of the new pension freedoms that they have been granted by the Government. It is a reforming Bill that amends the existing framework, and it will be of benefit to all.

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