Labour sets out agenda for fairer pensions

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Shadow Pensions Minister

New shadow pensions minister Nick Thomas-Symonds says he wants to make cost-effective advice more widely available and bring about a fairer pensions market.

Speaking to Money Marketing in his first interview since being appointed, Thomas-Symonds says he will focus on issues of unfairness and inequality.

A former barrister who was elected in May, Thomas-Symonds replaced Labour peer Lord Bradley as the party’s pensions spokesman just over two weeks ago.

Speaking to Money Marketing at the Labour party conference in Brighton earlier this week, he said he wants to provide oversight of the Government post-pension freedoms and has already been talking to providers.

He said: “I have been very impressed by how constructive the various stakeholders have been in their willingness to engage.

“They have been very keen to impress on me the need for a detailed look at the political agenda going forward, and that with something like savings you need long-term stability.”

Thomas-Symonds said he is yet to meet up with advisers and adviser representatives but he is keen to do so.

He said: “I have had experience with advisers in the past and I have come across them in the course of my previous profession.

“I am interested in every part of the sector, and I want it to all be in focus for me.”

Thomas-Symonds said as part of his remit he is keen to investigate whether the Pension Wise guidance service is working, and to push for better promotion of both guidance and advice.

He said: “In the terms of reference for the Financial Advice Market Review, there are two points that have a resonance for me. Firstly, how do we get cost-effective regulated advice to people further down the pay scale, and why is it that people aren’t seeking guidance.

“The figures say that more than 200,000 people have accessed the freedoms, but only about 20,000 had Pension Wise appointments, so why is that?”

Thomas-Symonds said he wants to make his stance about “fairness”.

He said: “I know fairness is an abstract concept but the point has to be made that you can’t run pensions as if everyone has a large pension pot, you have to run it on the basis of where the vast majority of people are.

“That’s why I’m also concerned about auto-enrolment, and whether people are being missed.”

He added Labour will set out its full pension policy later on in the parliament.