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Workplace Pensions

Volume 673: debated on Monday 9 March 2020

1. What recent assessment she has made of trends in the number of people contributing to a workplace pension. (901381)

You have impeccable timing, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Workplace pension participation rates have more than doubled since the introduction of automatic enrolment under the coalition Government in 2012, rising from 42% in 2012 to 85% in 2018. In West Worcestershire, my hon. Friend’s constituency, 9,000 eligible jobholders have been automatically enrolled, and thanks are due to the 2,600 local businesses that are supporting them.

This has truly been one of the great policy successes of the last decade, but many would argue that people are still not saving enough for a comfortable retirement. Does the Minister plan to use other nudge techniques, such as automatic uplifts whenever a person gets a pay rise, to encourage saving for old age?

We have the 2017 review, which we continue to monitor and will implement going forward. Automatic increases are not part of the Government’s present plans, but I am actively looking to learn from private sector companies that are carrying out similar initiatives. I welcome my hon. Friend’s interest and would be happy to discuss this in more detail.

Auto-enrolment, the creation of the last Labour Government, has transformed the lives of millions, with 10 million more now saving into a workplace pension, but 5 million people are still not covered because they are too young, because they earn too little or because they are self-employed.

The hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) is right that 8% cannot be the summit of our ambition to ensure security and dignity in retirement. Does the Minister agree that 8% cannot be right, and will he agree to cross-party talks on putting right that wrong?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we frankly speak far too often—virtually on a weekly basis —to ensure a cross-party approach to pensions policy. He is right that automatic enrolment was conceived under a Labour Government, implemented under the coalition and brought forward by the Conservatives. I accept that 8% is not enough going forward, but we await the 2017 review, the implementation of that review and further discussions on an ongoing basis.

This Government need to demonstrate that they stand on the side of self-employed people. Given that millions of self-employed people are not saving enough for their retirement, what update can the Minister provide the House on the incentives and encouragement we are providing for self-employed people to pay into a pension?

As a formerly very fat, self-employed jockey and a self-employed white-collar barrister, I fully appreciate the issues concerned. I agree with my right hon. Friend that these are issues we have to address. He will be aware that we are trialling self-employment matters on an ongoing basis with the National Employment Savings Trust and a variety of private sector organisations. We welcome unions and other organisations that wish to be part of that, and it is front and centre of what we are trying to do.

Too many young people do not save for their pensions, so how can the Minister ensure that young workers are better represented in workplace pension schemes?

The statistics are actually getting better by the minute. In 2012, only 35% of young people aged between 22 and 29 saved into a workplace pension. Now 85% of 22 to 29-year-olds save, but there is more we can do, including for the self-employed. The 8% that is being saved has made a transformational difference, and the opt-out rate among the young is the lowest of all the cohorts.