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This week in Politics

After a year of rows, speeches, White Papers, consultations, self-serving surveys and roundtable arguments over who should run the NPSS the decision could now fall to a body potentially comprised of those that have been taking part in these same arguments.

A year after the then pensions minister Stephen Timms’ challenge to the industry to come up with an alternative to Turner’s proposed NPSS the Government says the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority will be left to make the key decisions about the scheme’s make up.

In a speech to the ABI’s Saver Summit last week, Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton said: ‘We should not rule out the possibility at some point in the future of branded providers but that should be a decision taken by the delivery authority in the future.’

The final decision over the make up of Personal Accounts was initially expected in this Summer’s White Paper but the Government included two options – one following closely Turner’s NPSS and one allowing for the choice of branded providers.

The Government said its preference was still for the Turner-inspired model but it was finding it hard to come to a conclusive decision. Recently the DWP has given plenty of hints that the final model will be a hybrid of the two options, something along the lines of Fidelity’s proposition for a central default fund but allowing choice if the individual requires.

The debate now turns to the make up of the Delivery Authority and it is hard to see how key stakeholders such as the ABI, IMA and NAPF can be excluded from an ‘independent body’ which will ‘use the best experience and skills of the private sector’.

The upcoming Personal Accounts White Paper will flesh out the make up of the body and answer questions such as how many cooks will be involved and if their will be a smaller executive akin to the Turner Commission to ensure clarity in decision making.

But there is still the significant worry it will end up being a group of people who have spent the last year arguing their own cases for the design of the scheme and who may not be able to put their quarrels aside and come up with the best solution.

Another case of ever decreasing circles from the DWP this week following on from Tory accusation’s the department is using a traffic light system to ensure embarrassing Parliamentary questions are delayed or ignored entirely.

To get to the bottom of the apparent whistle blowing from someone at the DWP, Tory Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Philip Hammond has tabled a series of probing Parliamentary questions to discover if the Parliamentary questions process is working properly.

The irony of the situation is not lost on Hammond – who has also filed a freedom of information request on the matter- but there is little else he can do to prove if the stack of his unanswered questions, going back to July, is being deliberately ignored.

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