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Experts warn of pensions brain drain as Webb and McClymont lose seats

The pensions industry is reeling after leading figures lost their seats, resulting in a pensions ‘brain drain’ in the House of Commons.

Pensions minister and Liberal Democrat Steve Webb, shadow pensions minister Gregg McClymont, shadow Treasury minister Cathy Jamieson and work and pensions select committee chair Dame Anne Begg all lost their seats.

Hargreaves Lansdown head of pensions research Tom McPhail says his main concern is the “lack of pensions expertise in the House of Commons now”.

Prior to the election the Conservatives announced they would appoint Ros Altmann as a minister responsible for financial consumer protection and education.

Aegon regulatory strategy director Steven Cameron says: “It will be interesting to see if there’s more definition placed on Ros Altmann’s role and and how she’ll interact with the pensions minister.”

The Tories did not have a pensions spokesperson during the last parliament, however experts say Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills is well regarded as a member of the work and pensions select committee, despite being caught playing Candy Crush during a meeting.

Likewise, Gloucester MP Richard Graham spent much of his career working with pension funds and was chair of the all party parliamentary group for pensions.

Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier sat on the Treasury select committee and would be a practical choice given the expectation tax relief will be reformed in the next parliament.

Fidelity Worldwide Investment retirement director Alan Higham says Labour may move to bring East Ham MP Stephen Timms as shadow pensions minister. Under Tony Blair, Timms held the pensions minister role twice.

Experts are agreed the election result is likely to mean there will be no shock changes to pensions policy .

Higham says: “The Conservative’s priority is to bed in reforms they’ve already done.”

He adds: “We’ve had substantial reform already. We don’t want to see major changes to tax relief. We’re in danger of messing around with tax relief and making the system more complex than it needs to be – it adds costs and it puts off the bosses from valuing pensions.

“That could make it a difficult environment when we’re going to have to put up contributions for auto-enrolment.”

Cameron says: “There have been very significant reforms and we’d hope the new government would avoid jumping and making new policy changes. They should step back and consider where the long-term savings policy is already going, looking at the success of that and then decide on action.

“The fact the Conservatives have continuity hopefully means they’ll resist making big changes.”

But Cameron says Webb’s flagship policies – such as collective defined contribution pensions and pot-follows-member – may be under threat from a Conservative majority government.

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Comments

There are 4 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Following RDR, Auto Enrolment and the new Pension Freedoms, maybe it’s time that we don’t have someone in Whitehall feeling the need to tinker around. There’s been a lot of progress over the last five years, but it’s probably time to let the dust settle and for the new world to mature a bit.

  2. Hardly a pensions brain drain!

  3. There’s nothing to stop Treasury ministers seeking financial advice.

  4. Julian Stevens 8th May 2015 at 7:21 pm

    If Webb was one the primary architects of the Pandora’s box that the new unfettered access provisions have opened, not to mention the barmy idea of allowing existing annuities to be redeemed for cash, then we’re probably better off without him.

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