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Volume 621: debated on Monday 20 February 2017

4. What assessment his Department has made of recent trends in the number of people saving into a pension scheme as a result of auto-enrolment. (908759)

6. What assessment his Department has made of recent trends in the number of people saving into a pension scheme as a result of auto-enrolment. (908762)

Almost 7.3 million eligible workers have been enrolled into a workplace pension because of automatic enrolment. This is an unseen revolution; the way people are now saving will lead to more freedom, more choice and more security for the pensioners of tomorrow.

Does the Secretary of State agree that it is quite clear that many people who would otherwise not save into a private pension will now have a pension for their futures, and that young people, who often do not save for a pension now, will have a secure future in retirement?

I agree with my hon. Friend, particularly on his point about young people. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has done some research showing that participation in auto-enrolment among those aged 22 to 29 increased from 28% in 2012 to 85% in 2016. That is a very impressive improvement.

Auto-enrolment has been hugely successful. However, a number of people are still opting out. A business in my Southampton, Itchen constituency suggested that up to 50% of its staff may be opting out. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to encourage people to continue to save for their retirement in a workplace pension?

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that his example is an exception. When the Turner commission reported and suggested this kind of scheme in 2005, it estimated that about 25% of people would opt out, but the opt-out rate is about 10% at the moment. There is always more to do, as my hon. Friend’s example suggests, which is why we are currently conducting a review to ensure that such schemes are even better in the future in order to work for all kinds of individuals, particularly those in small businesses.

The Library is not able to supply me with any evidence that tax relief on pension contributions—costing £30 billion a year or more—encourages savings. Can the Secretary of State supply me with such evidence?

I can supply the hon. Gentleman with evidence that we have transformed saving over the past few years. People have often said that young people in particular do not want to save, but the facts I have just put before the House suggest that that is no longer the case. If the hon. Gentleman is advocating taking away all tax relief for pensions, I would be interested in his ideas—as, I am sure, would his own Front Benchers.

Ministers have been clear on the need for transparency in the pensions industry, including in master trusts dealing with auto-enrolment. In his Second Reading speech on the Pension Schemes Bill, the Secretary of State spoke of it. In a speech to the TUC, the Pensions Minister said:

“We have to get transparency. It’s not an option to do nothing.”

On Report in the Lords, Lord Freud said:

“We want pension scheme members to have sight of all costs and charges”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 December 2016; Vol. 777, c. 1528.]

Despite those fine words, all the attempts to deliver on transparency in the Bill Committee were dismissed by the Government, so can the Minister tell the House what they mean by transparency in the pensions industry?

The Bill—I note the Labour party did not vote against it on Second or Third Reading, so the hon. Gentleman cannot have objected to it that strongly—actually set up a new system of regulation, particularly of master trusts, that deals with not just transparency but a whole range of aspects, so this relatively new form of financial body is now much better regulated than it was before. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman welcomed it—actually, he did welcome it.