The consensus from people I have spoken to , following the King’s Speech is that the Government we have today has lost its legitimacy and is increasingly looking like a marketing tool for the Conservative party at the next general election.
Most people aren’t that fussed about elections, they want the party they have to Govern in a legitimate way.
Perhaps the disenchantment from my friends and colleagues is summed up by the phrase “pedicabs before pensions” which references the King’s Speech proffering legislation to temper the behavior of City and Westminster rickshaws . I am a cyclist in those parts and can confidently say that pedicabs are not such a problem as the parlous state of much of the British pension system.
That there is no pensions bill suggests to me that that Government has not so much run out of ideas (there are 21 bills in the speech) as energy. I must admit to being in two minds about the invisibility of pensions minister Laura Trott, I had thought she might be holding herself back for a final year of parliamentary pressure. But it turns out that having mothballed the pensions dashboard, swerved taking on the thorny issue of the state pension age , that she has abandoned the framework of the Mansion House reforms to another Government.
This sends a bad signal to the private pensions industry who have committed time and resource preparing for the various measures that the Government has legislated for in the Pension Schemes Act 2021 and consulting on the projects that the pensions minister had initiated in advance of a Pension Bill this weeks.
It is also a sorry signal to the Pensions Regulator and the FCA who had the value for money taken from them by big Government in the hope that the DWP could deliver where the regulators have been seen to be failing.
The aims of the Mansion House reforms were and are aligned with the aims of those in private pensions who want pensions with purpose, both social and environmental, we want a better governed pension industry and we had expected assistance from Government.
The Government is distancing itself from its previously held position as champion of sustainability. The Kings Speech provides legitimacy for those who promote fossil fuels. The whole-hearted efforts of the pensions industry to embrace TCFD are being undermined by populist initiatives that put votes before the planet.
The Mansion House reforms put “purpose” as a fiduciary aim, it called on fiduciaries and providers to invest purposefully and it launched Compacts that could deliver with the assistance of a number of reforms envisaged by the DWP. I don’t see an end to the Compacts between pension providers or between the providers of venture capital, but the absence of proposed legislation to support them , is aligned to the general loss of purpose from Government over the past six months.
I expect there to be some assistance to these Compacts in the Autumn Statement but the key issues for pensions were with the DWP. Big Government has let us down and that is why I feel that this is no longer “My Government”.
Another casualty – the PPF
Yesterday, with bad-timing, the Work and Pensions Committee quizzed the PPF about its intentions for the future. The PPF is a success story both in its conception and its management. It wants to be more than it is, it wants to consolidate small DB plans and it has had the support of the Blair Institute so to do.
But it’s CEO is leaving and he spent his time at WPC ducking questions, It’s CIO made a good attempt to appear incompetent (I’m sure he’s not) and only the COO showed why we hold the PPF in high esteem.
If there is to be better use of the PPF, then the PPF needs to put a better foot forward than it did yesterday. The timing was awful, whatever we might have expected the PPF to do , cannot be done without the primary legislation that went missing at the King’s speech.
WTW’s powerful argument for the abolition of the PPF levy cannot be debated because there is no pensions bill to enable the small change in the levy’s operation to make this practica. LCP’s long letter to Laura Trott, published yesterday is of no import since its plan to extend the duration of its client’s pensions , depended on primary legislation for a super-levy.
As with so much else in pensions, the PPF has been disrupted and consulted upon over proposals that have been dashed. It is hard to think of how Government could have managed its expectations worse
Not my Government
The frustration that I have picked up from those I know and work with is already disseminating through the pension press.The FT has commented on the absence of Pensions from the Kings Speech,
I expect that the low but loud murmerings about the failure to produce a dashboard or a workable DB or General Code, the failure to get Royal Mail’s CDC scheme over the line or deal with the state pension age, will be amplified by the failing of this Government to put pensions before pedecycles – we will hope for better next time.