Social media never sleeps
This announcement had yet to appear on the Government’s Ministerial website , the headline is from Order Order – the unofficial news channel for the Westminster Village, Breaking news came from Opperman himself – no doubt transmitted to Guido Fawkes down well trodden digital pathways.
— Guy Opperman (@GuyOpperman) October 27, 2022
Clearly there is a deal of goodwill within the new team as evidenced by its fifth member, Mims Davies.
Delighted to be back @DWPgovuk Honoured to be appointed by HM The King in PM @RishiSunak’s new @Conservatives Government-Very excited to be working with the new SoS @MelJStride & the new team @VotePursglove & Laura Trott MP & also returned @GuyOpperman #JobsCommunityProgression pic.twitter.com/AgH5fWaLae
— Mims Davies MP (@mimsdavies) October 27, 2022
Within minutes Jo Cumbo , Jonathan Stapleton and Steve Webb were amplifying and commenting
This may have slipped out while we were watching Emmerdale, but it’s big news for pensions – and good news for once!
Unless you are SteveWebb
Very disappointed to hear that @NorwichChloe is leaving her role as DWP Secretary of State. Had high hopes of a new direction for the Department. Let’s hope @alexburghart stays in post as Pensions Minister.
— Steve Webb (@stevewebb1) October 25, 2022
Good news for Guy Opperman – good news for pensions
In the light of that previous tweet, let me address the former pension minister’s question.
In recent years, pensions minister has been a junior minister role. Now that Guy Opperman has been appointed a (mid ranking) Minister of State at DWP will be interesting to see if pensions have been upgraded or if Guy has been upgraded!
— Steve Webb (@stevewebb1) October 27, 2022
The answer is emphatically “both”
Pension Puss no more
It was only when Guy Opperman was appointed in 2017 as a Puss (parliamentary undersecretary of state) that pensions lost a full minister to look after it. After the chaos of the summer and autumn, Guy Opperman returns to office in what can best be called the dream result for pensions. He is a Minister of State as all previous pension ministers has been.
Alex Burghart, who was Pensions PUSS for a matter of weeks, moves on to be a Puss at the Cabinet Office.
As my blog said earlier in the week, he has done nothing wrong , he was just in the wrong job. I wish him well.
Lest we forget , here he is on one of his rare public outings as the Minister for Pensions and Growth
Thankfully – we have now reverted to Pensions Minister – no more silly titles please! No more Puss please!
So much for politics..
I hope this is the last political blog I write for a while. Opperman resigned on the eve of Johnson’s resignation, came back as interim minister pending the new Prime Minister being appointed, was “inexplicably” (Private Eye) sacked to make way for a minister for pensions and growth and has now been reappointed for a second time, this time in a more senior role.
Taking it in his Stride
Mel Stride and he are besties, let hope that together they can find a bridge to the Treasury. Let’s hope that the key projects that require co-operation between the two departments move ahead at pace
- We get Superfunds properly up and running
- We get CDC as a means of paying everyone a wage in retirement
- We get proper funding regulations for DB and a sensible DB funding code
- That the pensions industry banishes leverage as an investment product.
- That we get a just settlement that protects the most vulnerable pensioners through state pensions and benefits
- That an immediate review of the net pay settlement is conducted with a view to providing compensation to those short-changed in 2023.
- That the state pension age is adjusted with due regard to longevity and fertility.
- That there is a better long-lasting solution to the problems surround the Annual Allowance for those in open DB schemes (especially the NHS)
- The Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority work better together
For too long we have had to hear that pension issues that relate to tax , the FCA and solvency, cannot be dealt with by the DWP. This is bad Government, we need inter-departmental co-operation. Mel Stride is the person to bring confidence to the Treasury in the DWP and allow the DWP to work with the Treasury on a more equal footing.
Of immediate note
Opperman’s first full week in office will coincide with Pension Awareness Week, which will be a soft landing. Pensions have got a lot of attention over the past month and we need to make it absolutely clear that steps are being taken to ensure that the chaos experienced by those running DB schemes does not happen again.
Yesterday I listened in to the PFIF seminar ” LDI & Hedging – What Next?”, judging from what I hear, there is likely to be what Patrick Jenkins has described as “a long drawn out shift away from cheap government debt supported by an artificially gilt-hungry pension system”. Ironically, DB strategies look to be bifurcating between a rush to buy-out and a re-evaluation of their purpose, we may see a few more private sector DB schemes re-establish growth strategies that enable them – as happens in most public sector funded DB plans, to invest for the future. Pensions can and should be part of Britain’s economic recovery.
And I hope that we will see collective DC arrangements – whether as pooled funds or as employer sponsored schemes , providing pensions to the millions who are saving for their retirement through workplace DC schemes. It is vital to have a strong wealth management sector for those with the means to pay for advice and strong non-advised pension options – whether guaranteed or investment driven, for those who do not take advice.
And we need, in the remaining years of this parliament, to see Pension Dashboards appear that can help people with fractured pension arrangements , find lost entitlements , bring pots together and find ways to organise their later life finances, using new technology.
Finally, we need to overhaul the benefits system for those in retirement. Pension Credit is a mess; it’s too hard to claim, too complicated and it is missing obvious targets. Opperman has pledged to do what can be done within the current rules and to set in motion the overhaul. While I doubt this work will be completed in this parliamentary term, I see there being cross party support for change – so the baton may be picked up in 2025.