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Pensions

Volume 404: debated on Thursday 8 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what policies his Department has for targeting Government information on pensions to groups in the workforce that traditionally have a low take-up rate of private pension provision. [111435]

The proposals outlined in our Green Paper "Simplicity, security and choice: working and saving for retirement", (Cm 5677), published on 17 December 2002, aim to ensure that people are provided with the information they need to make informed choices about their retirement provision.The proposals include:

Issuing automatic state pension forecasts to people who are not members of private pension schemes, starting in May 2003 with the self employed;
Targeting pensions information at key life events when people might be most likely to think seriously about planning for their future;
Making it easier for employers to promote the benefits of their pension scheme to prospective members by producing an FSA approved pension information pack;
Requiring employers, who do not provide a pension, to provide employees with access to certain information or advice to help them plan for their retirement.

We have also announced our intention to set up an employer task force with a remit to promote employer led solutions to extend occupational and private pension provision.

We are now concluding a wide-ranging consultation exercise in which we have sought views on these proposals. We have received more than 800 written responses and we will be setting out our plans in more detail in due course.

In addition, the Department's current pensions awareness campaign, supported by a series of information guides, has been running since January 2001 and over two million guides have been issued so far. This has included direct marketing activity targeting groups with traditionally low take-up of private pension provision, including women, the self-employed, young people, and working-age people with no private pension.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if his Department will work with the Inland Revenue to send out information to workers entering new permanent positions about the benefits of taking out private pension provision. [111437]

We are committed to encouraging people to consider their pension saving options. Everyone needs to be equipped to understand their Financial choices and have access to the information they need to prepare for their retirement.The Green Paper "Simplicity, security and choice: working and saving for retirement", (Cm 5677), recognised the vital part that the workplace plays in pension provision and set out the Government's proposals for working with employers to encourage and facilitate the provision of better pensions information to employees and prospective employees. This was a joint publication between the Department of Work and Pensions, HM Treasury and the Inland Revenue, demonstrating the close working relationship necessary between Government Departments to take forward the Government's agenda on pensions.Our proposals for new employees include:

Targeting pensions information at this key life event when people might be most likely to think seriously about planning for their future.
Making it easier for employers to promote the benefits of their pension scheme to prospective members by producing an FSA-approved pension information pack.

We are now concluding a wide-ranging consultation exercise in which we have sought views on these proposals. We have received more than 800 written responses and we will be setting out our plans in more detail in due course.

We will consider carefully any opportunities for the Department for Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue to continue to work closely together in this area.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if his Department will make an assessment of (a) whether and (b) to what extent price caps and regulation have an effect on the ability of pension companies to offer products to lower income groups, with particular reference to stakeholder products. [111444]

Following the Sandler Review, the Government published a consultation document "Proposed product specifications for Sandler `stakeholder' products" in February 2003 that made proposals to provide people with more opportunities to save. As part of this work the Government have commissioned independent research into the impact of a charge cap on retail investment products. We will be responding to the results of the consultation in due course.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of working-age (a) adults, (b) men and (c) women in the north west of England are members of a stakeholder pension plan. [111588]

Specific data on the number of individuals contributing to stakeholder pensions, including a break down by region, will not be available until later this year. However, latest figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) covering the United Kingdom, indicate that 1.25 million stakeholder pensions had been sold up to the end of December 2002. of which an estimated 97 per cent. had been bought for individuals of working age (comprising 56 per cent. men and 44 per cent. women). ABI figures show the number of stakeholder pension policies sold, not the number of individuals who have taken out a stakeholder pension. People are allowed to hold more than one stakeholder pension.