News that Richard Harrington is leaving his post as Pension Minister for BEIS shouldn’t surprise readers of this blog. The move had been heavily flagged in the DWP and tPR even before the election, @Richard4Watford put “pensions first” for his 9 months as pension minister but the BEIS job is a promotion, we all take promotions.
There may be people in pensions who mourn the demotion of the job title from full to junior minister. There may be people who point to the rapid turnover both of pension ministers and shadow ministers as indicating the post has little point. They would (IMO) be right.
In running the state pension system, any Government is running huge amounts of risk which they cannot easily control. Linking the state pension age to mortality is the easiest way to control that risk but there are others. Auto-enrolment is a way to reduce dependency on welfare among those at the bottom of the financial ladder. Get that right and we are reducing dependency on future generations to pay for generation x, y and z’s retirement spending.
Pension Ministers do not decide these big ticket items, these are decided in Treasury and agreed within the Cabinet. The Pension Minister is merely the mouthpiece for what Philip Hammond , David Gauke et al determine.
Harrovian, Guy Opperman appears to be our new Pension Minister though Jo Cumbo reports that the responsibilities of the new DWP ministers Guy Opperman and Caroline Dineage are to be confirmed in due course.
It seems silly to speculate on what we are about to receive, not just because it’s unclear who is doing what but also because neither will be doing a lot very soon.
Unlike Steve Webb, who came to the office a full-on pension expert or Ros Altmann who certainly knew what she wanted, the new appointments have to learn on the job. It is possible, as Gregg McClymont showed, to do this. But it takes a full parliamentary term and it takes a view of the current job which would make it one to aspire to.
Humbled in Iceland
So I’m not wasting valuable time worrying about the propensity of Guy or Caroline to do the job. Instead I will be wondering around the middle of Iceland.
This may result in you hearing rather less from me than you are wont from now to Sunday.
And if anyone wonders why Iceland, then I hope to explain next week!