How Labour plans to wage the pensions policy battle

Angela Rayner

Labour’s fourth shadow pensions minister in under a year says she will introduce a “campaigning element” to the role, holding the Government to account over the retirement freedoms, automatic enrolment and the new state pension.

The party has been criticised for stepping back from key financial services debates, including the Financial Advice Market Review and the pension reforms, but Angela Rayner says leader Jeremy Corbyn has tasked her with designing the party’s pensions policy and strategy.

The MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, a former carer and union representative, says she will use her campaigning experience to tackle three key areas.

Speaking to Money Marketing, she says: “I plan to be around for a while, I’m not learning all this stuff to just leave. There are a lot of complex issues. I want to bring a campaigning element to the brief. This is a technical area and I understand that’s important but the big issues for me are in areas like auto-enrolment where a lot of people will miss out, how are we protecting them?

“And the pension freedoms mean there are a lot of people that are not taking guidance because they fall under the threshold.

“There’s a lot of people who fall under that barrier that can just take their money and they are vulnerable to the market, there’s no one looking after their interests.”

In October the FCA said it was introducing a £10,000 threshold over which pension providers have to give customers risk warnings when they access pots.

Rayner has also taken aim at the Department for Work and Pension’s approach to the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign.

The Government has ruled out granting transitional measures to women who claim they were given inadequate notice when their state pension ages were raised twice, in 1995 and 2011.

Last week Rayner called on the Government to “show us the money” on transitional measures it says it has considered for women affected by the rise in state pension age.

Rayner also criticises the Conversatives for “bitty” pensions policy that hinders people planning for their retirement.

She says: “Jeremy is keen for me to start those conversations with the market and savers to make sure we create the right offer for people. I don’t think the Government has a strategic vision for pension reform, it feels bitty. It’s tinkering instead of developing a joined-up strategy that means people know what retirement will be.”

She is concerned about people running down their pension savings too quickly but will not go as far to say the Government should introduce extra controls.

She adds: “Ultimately financial services are there to serve and enable people. We are not slaves to finance, the system is there to enable us to better people’s lives. There’s no harm in making profit but there has to be a balance.”