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Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment)

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 20 July 2022

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about the extension of pensions automatic enrolment to jobholders under the age of 22; to make provision about the lower qualifying earnings threshold for automatic enrolment; and for connected purposes.

I agree with the comments that you made a few moments ago, Madam Deputy Speaker, about my hon. Friends the Members for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe), for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford), for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson), and for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson). The abuse that they have recently received has been unbelievable. All of us need to be able to go about our business in the House and in our constituency without fear, so that we can serve our constituents as best we can.

I thank not only the Bill’s sponsors, but my hon. Friends the Members for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison), for Workington (Mark Jenkinson), for Darlington (Peter Gibson), for North Norfolk (Duncan Baker), for Sedgefield (Paul Howell), for Stockton South (Matt Vickers), for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell), for Birmingham, Northfield (Gary Sambrook), for Dover (Mrs Elphicke), for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham), for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart), for Grantham and Stamford (Gareth Davies), and for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes), who have indicated their support for the legislation. Many other Members have also told me privately that they are very supportive of the Bill.

The Bill amends sections 3 and 5 of the Pensions Act 2008 to lower the age of auto-enrolment to 18, and section 13 to lower the earnings limit. Crucially, it allows the Secretary of State to make those change through regulations. The legislation does not bring in those changes now, automatically; it puts the ability to do so in the hands of the Secretary of State, who can, in accordance with our manifesto, bring those changes forward in due course, when the Government feel that the time is right.

I thank my the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), who has been so supportive throughout the process; he was supportive when I brought forward a private Member’s Bill, a ten-minute rule Bill in the last Session, and this Bill. I am also grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom I spoke in a brief meeting today. I look forward to further fruitful discussions with him in the not-too-distant future.

The legislation would drive forward a major change in policy. It is worth a huge amount of money—it will roll in over a long period—to people in lower-paid work, and to people who start work at age 18. It is worth trillions of pounds over the 50-year working lifetime of the current labour force. This policy was introduced in the Conservative party manifesto, and has been recommitted to, at the Dispatch Box, since the 2019 general election.

This Bill on the expansion of auto-enrolment is about helping people to entrench their ambition for the future, and about protecting them in retirement. It is about people’s ambition to look after themselves, their families and their communities—the towns and villages they live in. In North West Durham, that includes communities from Consett to Crook, and from Lanehead to Langley Park. It means an extension of the transformation that we have seen with auto-enrolment over the past few years—an extension that will be as big as the share ownership changes of the 1980s and right to buy under the then Conservative Administration, enabling people to look after themselves and provide for their families into the future. At the moment, three quarters of those aged over 22 are automatically enrolled into pension schemes and, for every 50p, £1 is saved. Yet for those under the age of 22, the figure is only 20%. The Bill will make a massive difference to the lives of those young workers.

For part-time workers, auto-enrolment stands at below 60%, compared with almost 90% of workers in full-time jobs. If we assume that a move from the age of 22 to 18 will bring about a similar take-up, the Bill will see roughly an extra third of the part-time workforce auto-enrolled, which is an increase of 50% on present numbers. That would mean that millions of people—mostly women, those from ethnic minority communities, and those who are socially disadvantaged—would be brought into lifetime savings for their futures. The Bill seeks to make a difference to the lives of those people.

Analysis by the think-tank Onward shows exactly where such people are located. They are in places such as North West Durham, Workington in Cumbria, Hyndburn in Lancashire and Mansfield in Nottinghamshire—the parts of the red wall that the Conservative party won at the last general election—as well as in large parts of the south-west, the midlands, Scotland, north Wales and the north-east. They are from areas of the country that are seeking the broad transformative change that this Conservative Government are seeking to achieve.

Let me give a couple of examples. First, the Bill would mean that a full-time worker on the national living wage would gain almost an extra £100,000 over their lifetime—a 60% increase on today. That is not money that goes out all in one block, but small savings over time when the change has been introduced after the next general election; it is about an incremental change to make real differences to people’s lives.

The average younger worker aged between 18 and 22 who is working full-time on the living wage would pay in just a few hundred pounds a year—literally a few pounds a week—but with 50 years of compound interest, £1,000 paid in over three years could mean £25,000 to £30,000 added to their pension pot at the end of their life. That is a huge difference.

There is one example that really astounds me. People who earn £9,000 from two separate jobs—who may be working 12 to 18 hours a week, juggling their jobs around childcare or caring responsibilities—do not currently get the benefits of auto-enrolment at all. Under this legislation, somebody in that position would see their pension savings almost triple to up to £300,000 over a lifetime. That might mean that they could give their children a deposit and help themselves out in retirement. It could give them that comfort, the ability to look after younger family members in later life, and security in retirement and old age, so that they are not reliant on the state, but self-reliant. Those are real examples from people I have met in my constituency, and our party should be doing everything possible to help those people with their long-term savings.

The Government’s programme of auto-enrolment expansion has been fantastic. It is not hyperbolic to say that it is one of the best changes the country has seen over the last 10 years. With all the evidence of the huge positive impact it can have, it is a no-brainer that we now need to extend auto-enrolment to those aged 18 and above. It is outrageous that the legislation currently says to graduates, “As soon as you graduate, you will be auto-enrolled,” but to kids in my constituency, 70% of whom leave school aged 18 and go into work, “You aren’t auto-enrolled until you’re 22 years old.” It is a scandal that we need to deal with. The more that young people save and the sooner they save, the more they will get into a routine of saving, and the more they will be providing for themselves and their security in retirement.

This is a serious piece of legislation that could make a serious change. It is about bringing people security in their old age, at minimal cost to them when they are younger. It is about engineering a revolution for working-class people who are undertaking apprenticeships, among other things. The changes were initially thought of back in the late ’70s and were talked about again in the late 1990s, but it is only now that they are being pushed for in this private Member’s Bill, which would mean a real expansion of auto-enrolment to everybody, so that everybody has their own pension in addition to their state pension in retirement and has that comfort in old age.

We must table legislation now so that businesses can prepare for the future. There is no better way to help low-paid workers in constituencies like mine who have gone through the pandemic, sometimes with great difficulty, such as those in the retail sector and the care sector. They are the ones who will directly benefit from this legislation.

I must be clear that this policy will have no fiscal impact before the next general election; it will just create the primary legislation necessary for the Bill’s implementation, without tying the hands of future Ministers. It leaves the details of secondary legislation for the future Government to stipulate and ultimately implement. The aim is not to tie anyone’s hands, but to have legislation that is ready to go. It is about giving a signal to business, and a signal to society and working people that we are on their side.

This legislation will transform the lives of the millions of working people who are often not in great jobs but in low-paid work, and who are the backbone of our country. Votes were lent to us at the last general election, and we have to deliver for those people. Alongside changes such as those to Solvency II, the Bill could help to put cash into communities such as North West Durham and help to provide the extra private sector money to deliver the levelling up we need, because it cannot all be delivered through the Government and taxpayers’ cash. We need to think creatively and constructively to deliver long-term investment outside of metropolitan London. This Bill seems like one of the clearest and easiest ways to do so, and to benefit the working people of the country. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That Mr Richard Holden, Robbie Moore, Shaun Bailey, Nicola Richards, Miriam Cates, Simon Jupp, Mark Eastwood, Anthony Browne, Aaron Bell, Jonathan Gullis and Sir Gavin Williamson present the Bill.

Mr Richard Holden accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 October, and to be printed (Bill 149).

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will realise that there was a point of order a little while ago from the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), who said that he had notified me in advance of the point of order, in which he named me, as you know. In actual fact, he sent me an email at 2.20 pm, in which he said, “I wanted to make you aware that I intend to name you in the Chamber today,”, but he did not say when, when he perfectly well knew he was going to do it in about five minutes’ time. I replied, “When, and in what context? I don’t think that is a proper notification.” He replied, “The consequences of intemperate language in the Chamber.” It is perfectly fair for him to raise a point of order, but he did not give me proper notice; I think you would agree, Madam Deputy Speaker, that that is not proper notice. If he had given me proper notice, I would have made sure that I was in the Chamber to answer it for the convenience of the House.

Secondly, the hon. Member said that I had referred to his sexuality in the debate on Monday. I would never, ever do so; and as Hansard records, I did not do so. That is simply untrue. I very much hope that the hon. Member will withdraw that allegation. I certainly do think that there are problems relating to the way in which the Government have created a hostile environment for LGBT people in this country. [Interruption.] I am simply citing the former Government Equalities Minister, the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), who said so himself when he resigned. That was the only point that I was making.

I, of course, wholly abhor and hate the idea that anybody, as a result of anything I might say either in this Chamber or anywhere else, might have death threats addressed towards them. I have had plenty myself and have had the police at my house this week, so I wholly deplore that idea. If there is any sense in which the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton has felt antagonised and that that has been brought on by anything I have said, I apologise, but I would say that I did not say what he said I did; I simply quoted the former Conservative Government Equalities Minister, who, when he resigned, said that he was doing so because the Government were creating a hostile environment for LGBT people in this country.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I have to separate out from what he said that which is a point of order for the Chair and that which is an expression of political opinion. He is entitled to his political opinion and I, of course, would make no comment on it whatsoever. If the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson) has not properly given notice to the hon. Gentleman that he intended to mention him here in the Chamber, then that is quite simply wrong. I cannot, from the information that is available to me now, ascertain whether due notice was given or not, but I will discuss the matter with Mr Speaker and consider the evidence.

The hon. Gentleman also makes reference to what was said here in the Chamber on Monday evening. I was still in the Chamber at the moment of the exchange, having just left the Chair, and it would be an understatement to say that tempers were running high on all sides that evening. As I mentioned a few moments ago, good temper and moderation ought to be the characteristics of parliamentary debate. I am not satisfied that either good temper or moderation were present at that point in the debate on Monday evening, and I sincerely hope that, however strongly Members feel about a particular issue that they are addressing, we can approach most matters in a calm fashion that will allow us to debate the facts rather than the emotions—although I am not negating the place of emotions in some debates.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will leave it with me to look further into this matter.

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (Programme) (No. 2)


That the Order of 27 June 2022 (Northern Ireland Protocol Bill: Programme) be varied as follows:

(1) Paragraphs (4) and (5) shall be omitted.

(2) Any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall be taken on the third day of proceedings in Committee and shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion seven hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill on that day.—(Suzanne Webb.)