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Workplace Pensions

Volume 555: debated on Monday 10 December 2012

Automatic enrolment was introduced in October and the number of workers saving into a pension in some of Britain’s largest companies has already increased. In steady state, we expect 6 million to 9 million people to be newly saving, or saving more. To support this, we are running a national communications campaign, including TV adverts targeting those least likely to be saving in a pension.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that we on the Government Benches are on the side of those who strive and work hard in society. In that vein, how can my constituents in Wolverhampton South West who are saving for the future have access to enrolment to high-quality pension funds?

Through the creation of the National Employment Savings Trust we have ensured that there is a benchmark of low-cost, high-quality pension provision, which is driving down costs across the market. We need to go further and we are looking at whether the role of NEST can be expanded. We are also driving through transparency on charges, so that firms and employees can see what they are paying for and can pay less over time.

Would not one good test of who is on the side of the shirkers or the strivers be a state pension that guaranteed that people were taken off the means test, so it would be safe to save through companies? Will the pensions Minister give us a date for when we will see the White Paper?

The right hon. Gentleman will have heard the Chancellor only last Thursday reaffirm our commitment to state pension reform, and to do exactly that—to ensure that people who work hard and save hard are clear of means testing. The White Paper is at an advanced stage.

Will the Minister reassure the House that the Government will not repeat the measures introduced in 1997 by the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), which undermined the basis of work-based pensions? Does the Minister understand why the right hon. Gentleman is so often absent, which is doubtless due to his embarrassment about that assault on security?

My hon. Friend is right. That was one of several measures that took money out of final salary pension schemes, which, given they were the highest-quality schemes available, was no way to show commitment to quality pension provision.

I would have thought that Conservatives had more respect for the office of Prime Minister, Mr Speaker.

Do the Government have plans to make the rising state pension age fairer for those who have worked in manual occupations their whole life and who will tend not to have the same life expectancy? How do the Government plan to make the state pension age fair across all occupations?

I am interested in that point—it is one that the hon. Gentleman’s late right hon. Friend, Malcolm Wicks, used to raise regularly—and we are always interested in looking at ideas on it. Our proposal is that the state pension age would be more automatically linked to the general improvement in longevity that has applied across the social scale. He is right that there remain significant differences, but a rising tide—as it were—is lifting all boats.