Why a new pensions commission would fail

There’s a call from our current pensions minister to set up another pension commission like we had fifteen years ago.  That commission was a success as it resulted in progressive policies like auto-enrolment and made us sit up and think about working longer and saving harder.

But Steve Webb has rejected the idea and my guess is that it doesn’t get the support of the other pensions minister people remember “Ros Altmann”.

I’ve just bought a subscription to the Daily Telegraph (you get a Fitbit before Jan 23) so that I can read what Steve and others (including me) are saying. This is – in summary – what Steve is saying

  1. The important pension decision, the ones on tax are highly political. They are owned by the Treasury that doesn’t outsource decision making to commissions
  2. Even the DWP can’t get things past the Treasury (witness failures to implement the Cridland report). Pensions are too political – they get in the way .
  3. Although Turner was a success, most recent commissions are failures, witness the Royal Commission on Long term Care and the later Dilnot report.

Steve wraps up with this pretty telling comment.

We have a simple choice. We can indulge in wishful thinking and set up yet another commission where experts and people of good will get together to try to thrash out solutions but ultimately see their recommendations largely ignored. Or we can accept the political reality that ultimately governments need to grasp the nettle to resolve some of these knotty problems and press the government to make a decision and get on with it. Only the latter is likely to break the limbo in which too many major public policy issues now sit.

I am with Steve, and having spent time with Ros Altmann on issues such as Net Pay, I am pretty sure she is in the same camp. I don’t count my influence as a blade of grass to their lawns, but I’m keen to add my voice anyway

On issues such as the net pay anomaly, the AA Taper, the Pensions Dashboard and the shape of tax-relief for all, a pensions commission would be another layer of bureaucracy between us and change.

Just look at how the dashboard is being delayed in its delivery by the insertion of committee after committee.  A pension  commission could put further years on dashboard delivery.

The reason why Steve Webb was a successful pension minister is he took personal responsibility for what he did. The Single State Pension isn’t perfect, but it was delivered in a very short time, as were several important changes that made auto-enrolment. Webb’s decisive style allowed his boss, Ian Duncan Smith, to let him get on with it. He won a degree of support from the Treasury and – though Pension Freedoms were not his idea – he was rewarded by being given the credit.

Ros Altmann, though not a successful pensions minister, has become the pension consumer’s number one advocate because she is similarly plain speaking and takes responsibility for her ideas by making them happen. Few doubt that the net pay anomaly made it to the Conservative manifesto because of here.

Guy Opperman is potentially a third pension champion we can get behind. He has already stood up for CDC and seen it to the Pension Schemes Bill, he has kept the pension dashboard alive and he is promoting Open Finance into pensions. Perhaps he needs a little more support from people who are practicing pension professionsals so here goes.

Guy Opperman; you do not need a Pension Commission , you need the courage of your convictions and the support of the people who want to see progress in the pension debate. You now have a “stonking” majority and you have consensus for what you deliver from Jack Dromey and what’s left of the Liberal Party.

Please press on with delivering your ideas as Steve Webb did, use your supporters and take courage, you should  become during the course of this parliament, Britain’s longest serving pension minister; make yourself count!


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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