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Pension Investments

Volume 624: debated on Monday 27 March 2017

1. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that people have accurate and clear information to inform decisions on the use of their pension investments. (909473)

The Government are committed to providing free and impartial guidance through Pension Wise to help people make informed and confident decisions about how they use their defined contribution pension savings in retirement.

I am grateful for that answer. Will my hon. Friend reassure me that the Government are taking steps to protect people from being scammed out of their savings as well as ensuring that people have access to information to help them to decide how to draw down their pension savings?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to ask that question. The Government take the threat posed by scams very seriously indeed. We run campaigns to highlight the risk posed by scams to savers, and we have established a cross-government taskforce to gather and share intelligence, and to co-ordinate enforcement action. We have also consulted on further measures to tackle scammers, including a proposal to ban cold calling in relation to pensions. Our next step will be announced very soon.

Well, that is the point I was going to ask the Minister about. Will he tell us when he will crack down on cold calling? These people are trying to scam others out of their hard-earned life savings, taking advantage of the notion that there are these freedoms, but potentially putting pensioners at great risk. When will the legislation be brought forward?

Preying on elderly people in order to take advantage of their pension pots by giving them bad advice is a despicable crime. Is the Minister satisfied that the number of prosecutions of those who do this frankly evil activity is nearly enough?

I would like to be able say that it is enough, but I do not think it is. The steps we intend to take should make prosecutions for scam cold calling much easier. If I am asked the question again in the future, I hope to be able to answer in the affirmative.

On the issue of accurate and clear information, the Cridland report, published last week, stated:

“An increase of the State Pension age every ten years—and by only one year per decade—represents an appropriate pace of change”.

Does the Minister agree with that statement? If so, will he revisit the issue of the WASPI women, who face an increase in the state pensionable age of more than five years this decade?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has read the Cridland report in detail, and I thank him for doing so. It will suffice to say that the Government’s response will be published at the end of May and will be comprehensive. As far as the WASPI women are concerned, he knows—I have said this many times at this Dispatch Box and elsewhere—that the Government have made the concession that they are going to make in terms of transitional arrangements from the Pensions Act 1995. I have no further news. That is it.

Reducing fees and charges levied by pension companies is important to helping customers to get the most from their investments. Will the Minister update the House on what progress has been made in that area?

My hon. Friend and I have discussed the matter, and I am pleased that he has highlighted it. There has been consultation on the subject, and the Government will make an announcement ourselves and through the regulator very soon.

The Government missed an opportunity this year to tackle a wide range of issues in the pensions industry, but they chose to ignore most of them, instead bringing forward the narrow Pension Schemes Bill. The Secretary of State then failed to further his own agenda by instructing his Ministers to resist any attempt to introduce transparency, member engagement and greater clarity on costs. Why does he choose to protect the industry instead of savers? What will the Government do to correct this failure and help us all to build trust in our pensions industry?

I thank the shadow Minister for voting for the Bill on Second Reading, and for his generally constructive approach to it. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the transparency agenda is part of a much broader agenda, and the Government will make a proposal very soon.

I am currently dealing with two constituency cases in which old people have been robbed of their life savings. In both cases, they have been disappointed with the police response. Will the Minister’s cross-departmental work include contact with the Home Office and individual police forces to ensure that more work is done to address this?

I can confirm that the police and anti-fraud authorities are involved in this cross-governmental body.