The cost of a snap general election will be highest for the politicians, their advisers and their families who lose their livelihoods on June 8th. It is tough on MPs, especially those who joined since the 5 year term was introduced. Yesterday over 500 (potential) turkeys voted for Christmas (the SNP abstained and 13 objected).
It’s a poor return on human capital, when you commit to a five year term and get just over 40% of it. Not that most of those in Government are taking much of a risk. Our pensions minister has a 10,000 majority in Watford and it would take a major banana skin or a messianic performance from an alternative leader to see him not resume his place in a new Government. But the personal disruption is still there and for many MP’s in marginal constituencies, May will have pressed the nuclear button. Snap elections can snap careers and hurt colleagues and their families.
When I was sitting in the Pension Minister’s office, minutes after May’s announcement, the first thought was for the Pensions Bill, sitting somewhere in Buckingham Palace, awaiting Royal Assent. Infact it comes down to getting Her Majesty to put pen to paper. I wonder if she is asked to read the small print.
I got the impression that Royal Assent would be granted, not just to this Bill but to the more immediately important Finance Bill, without which the country cannot be properly run.
However, the Government’s requirement to publish its plans for the state retirement age is a rather more tricky matter. Steve Webb, who yesterday confirmed that a replacement parliamentary candidate has been found for his former constituency, ruled himself out of returning to Westminster.
But he continues to be pensions best political commentator pointing out that on the state pension, the Government has a legal duty (under the 2014 Pensions Act) to respond to the recently completed review of the state pension age by May 7th 2017. Webb commented
The prospect of an imminent election probably means an aggresesive timetable with twenty-somethings working into their seventies is off the table for now.
By an odd coincidence, following our meeting, the Pensions Minister was off for lunch to say thank you to John Cridland, I hope that the snap election does not snap the good work of the Cridland review (or of the work GAD has done) to help us understand what pensions we can afford to pay ourselves- and when.
There will be a lot of people in Whitehall “getting snappy”.
Jo Cumbo, writing in the FT points out that disruption injures the progress of reports in progress. We have a Green Paper on Defined Benefits , an Auto-Enrolment review (including a review of the inclusiveness of the charge cap), the FCA are due to publish their formulation for calculating costs and charges in the early summer and Matthew Taylor is in the middle of his research on the gig-economy.
The progress of all these initiatives could be disrupted by a change of Government and will be stalled as civil servants, policy wonks and politicians wait to see the snap elections outcome.
This is nicely summed up by the instructions given to Civil Servants and those who advise MPs around “Purdah”. This is from the 2015 instructions which were re-issued on April 10th prior to the May local elections (a rather more publication following this week’s development).
It is unlikely that we will see any great developments that have a political dimension in the next seven weeks. This is why Steve Webb felt an aggressive statement on the state pension age was unlikely and this is why we will definitely not be seeing very much mor of our Ministers – in a ministerial capacity, this side of the second week of June.
So if your event has a minister as keynote, take note. If you are planning around a firm policy announcement by May 7th, take note. And if you are a civil servant, you had better be on the phone to Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, chivvying your monarch into signing mode!
I wonder if she does electronic signatures.
Royal London paper on the snap general election https://www.royallondon.com/about/media/news/2017/april/what-does-the-snap-general- election-mean-for-our-pensions-steve-webb-royal-london/?amp%3Bepslanguage=en
FT article (Jo Cumbo) on the snap general election https://www.ft.com/content/07a05fd4-2520-11e7-8691-d5f7e0cd0a16?desktop=true&segmentId=d8d3e364-5197-20eb-17cf-2437841d178a#myft:notification:instant-email:content:headline:html
Addendum – problems with the reading of the 2017 Finance Bill
I’m grateful to Susan Ball, head of National Employer’s Advisory Services for these thoughts on the progress of the Finance Bill
The up and coming election is likely to have a big impact on the Finance Bill 2017 currently going through the parliament.
The second reading was on 18th April with what should then have been a normal progression through the houses and Royal assent in July. See http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/financeno2.html
But Parliament has to be dissolved 25 working days before Polling Day. This means that Parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday 3 May.
The House may Prorogue (suspend but not dissolve) before then. The Leader of the House indicated on 18 April that talks regarding prorogation will follow the motion passed yesterday.
Normally the House of Commons will spend most of a day (or more) on a stage of a bill. However, during the wash-up, when several bills need to be considered in two or three days this is not possible.
So this wash-up could occur next week and we will then know what happens or what is left of the Finance Bill 2017. At 762 pages the Finance Bill is currently the longest on record.
We have to hope that they decide there is only a need to pass a basic Finance Bill before the election, containing those measures essential to the current tax system and that most other measures are left out.
But they may not take that view for areas which came into force from 6th April 2017. So we are in real great danger of having the “off payroll in public sector” legislation and “Optional Remuneration (OpRA)” or salary exchange rules past without any of the normal scrutiny, with no detailed guidance from HMRC and major areas of uncertainty.
Lets hope parliament does take a sensible approach and drops them until the post election Finance Bill giving time for the problem areas to be properly ironed out or if that is not possible moves the start date to 6th April 2018 to allow time for organisations to deal with the major changes and HMRC to issue detailed guidance rather than acting at in haste ….
You can read the original of Susan’s comments at https://www.linkedin.com/feed/