Labour Shadow pensions minister Gregg McClymont says the Department for Work and Pensions’ lack of expertise on state aid is restricting its capacity to fight European rules that prevent Nest’s restrictions from being scrapped early.
Last week, McClymont told Money Marketing Nest’s £4,400 annual contribution cap and ban on transfers could be lifted within six months if the Government commits sufficient resources to proving the scheme’s loan does not constitute state aid.
Under the Government’s plans, Nest’s restrictions are due to be reviewed in 2017. In March, the work and pensions select committee called for Nest’s contribution cap and ban on transfers to be removed “as a matter of urgency” so it can compete more widely.
In a written question to the DWP, McClymont asked how many staff employed by the department were specialists in state aid issues between May 2009 and March 2011.
In his response, issued on June 25, employment minister Chris Grayling said: “The Department for Work and Pensions employed no specialists in EU state aid issues between (a) May 2009 and May 2010 and (b) May 2010 and March 2011. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills leads on EU state aid issues across Whitehall.”
Speaking to Money Marketing, McClymont says: “The fact DWP does not have any state aid lawyers of its own reinforces the perception that lifting the restrictions on Nest is not a priority for this Government.
“If you do not have lawyers in your own department who are fighting your corner in Brussels on issues like this, then it is a worry.”
A DWP spokeswoman says: “We continue to reflect on the recommendations made by the work and pensions select committee.”
BIS declined to comment.
Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners managing director Robert Reid says: “I would be very surprised if there is anyone at the DWP who wants to take up this fight.”