The Chancellor of the Exchequer failed pensioners in his budget speech and lost the opportunity to help more people plan for a better retirement, Shadow Pensions Minister Alex Cunningham told delegates to a special event in London.
Speaking to delegates at the Southern and Eastern Region of the Trade Union Congress pension seminar Alex said that pensions didn’t even cross the Chancellor’s mind.
The theme of the speech and discussion centred on the position of the Labour Party on pensions, with Alex Cunningham highlighting the current Pension Schemes Bill and the recent Budget that failed to address the most pressing issues in the industry now.
Labour had submitted a number of amendments during Committee Stage of the Bill on member engagement, transparency, and protecting members’ interests where a Master Trust is potentially failing.
Despite the Conservatives voting down all those amendments, several will be debated at the Report Stage of the Bill taking place tomorrow. The Government also removed the clause on providing for a funder of last resort in the instance of a Master Trust failing, a measure won by the Lords. Labour will be bringing back this clause at Report Stage, pushing ahead with the message that it will be ordinary workers who will lose out if a scheme fails.
The budget last week also left an open gap where the Chancellor could have used the opportunity to address issues on pensions, particularly the long-running WASPI campaign where a group of women born in the 1950s are fighting against the unjust changes to their State Pension Age.
Speaking at the seminar, Alex Cunningham said:
“Whilst the Conservatives stick their head in the sand and hope that the WASPI women will just disappear – Labour are proposing an extension of pension credit to help those most vulnerable who are really bearing the brunt of the reforms to the State Pension Age. We are tasking our pensions commission with helping us develop a plan which would let the WASPI women retire at least six months earlier or perhaps retire early on a reduced pension.”
During his speech, Alex also pressed on the issue of transparency and the Government’s failure to take action to provide clarity within the Pensions Industry.
“The Secretary of State himself has confirmed the Government will consult on hidden costs and charges later this year – and made a grand speech at the Second Reading of the Bill about transparency and the need for pension scheme members to be informed about their pensions.
“But the Secretary of state instructed his Pensions Minister to resist all attempts from the Opposition to do anything about them. We have a tremendous amount of work to do to prove how we can make the entire industry transparent, drive down costs and ensure that the amount of money ending up in pension pots is maximised and not eroded by charges people don’t even know exist.”
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