Lord Davies of Brixton debates involving HM Treasury during the 2019 Parliament

Finance (No. 2) Bill

Lord Davies of Brixton Excerpts
Friday 24th May 2024

(1 day, 18 hours ago)

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Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, it is such a pleasure to follow the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Hazarika, of Coatbridge—Ayesha Hazarika. We must all congratulate her on a tremendous speech; hers is a particularly tough act to follow. It is clear from her speech and biography that she has a sound political background, but she also has, to use Denis Healey’s memorable word, a hinterland—more experience.

I am particularly pleased to welcome my noble friend as a fellow resident of Brixton and a fellow graduate of the University of Hull, where she studied law. My recollection—it is a long time ago—is that the law students were particularly serious and I am glad to say that she breaks that convention. Clearly, they are important influences, but I suspect that most noble Lords will be keen to talk to my noble friend about her appearances on “Have I Got News For You”.

She has demonstrated that she will be a popular speaker. People may well come for the jokes, but they will stay for the serious political points being made. To conclude this part of my speech, it is important that she is here, particularly on this side of the Chamber, representing an underrepresented group: people under 50.

I turn now to the content of the Bill. I have found that speaking on finance Bills, even though there is nothing we can actually do, is the ideal opportunity to seize the attention of the Minister and, through her, the officials, on points which perhaps do not get sufficient coverage. I want to talk about Clause 24 on collective money purchase arrangements. I can read the Explanatory Notes, but when I try to understand what the amendment does, my mind glazes over. I do not know whether the Minister has a better understanding of what it does, but I think it illustrates two points.

First, the Government have still to get their act together on the introduction of this new type of pension scheme. Many of us with considerable experience on pensions believe that this is important for the future development of pension coverage across the economy, yet we are still getting these regulation-making powers. It is important to understand that this does not make any actual changes but, principally, creates further regulation powers, and we will have to wait for the regulations to understand what will happen. Will the Minister accept that it is a matter of priority to get this law straight, so that people can get on with introducing these important new types of schemes?

The second point, which is narrower, is contained in the heading “Collective money purchase arrangements”. Nobody in the pensions arena talks about collective money purchase arrangements; they always talk about collective defined contributions schemes. That is what they are, yet for some bizarre reason, lost in the policy-making process, we have ended up with them legally being described as collective money purchase arrangements—which in fact is a misleading title. The whole point of collective defined contribution schemes is contained in the objective of providing a pension. Calling them collective money purchase schemes gives the appearance that they are simply savings arrangements, with the infamous freedom of choice when people get to retirement. What people want is pensions. Adopting this terminology is grossly misleading about where this area of policy has to go.

The ship has sailed; it is in the legislation—I think there were 300 references to collective money purchase arrangements in the pensions Bill—but I say to the Minister that the Treasury and the Pensions Regulator together need to get a clear understanding of the terminology here. This initiative is about providing pensions; it is not about money purchase.

Spring Budget 2024

Lord Davies of Brixton Excerpts
Monday 18th March 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Kempsell, on his excellent, informative and measured maiden speech. I am sure he will be an asset to the House. I mainly want to question the Government about their proposals on national insurance, which are clearly a major part of the Budget and have given rise to the Bill before us today. I would like to make a couple of other points first.

First, I point out that no serious independent commentator thinks that the Government’s fiscal rule makes any sense whatever. The Government claim that it demonstrates that they are behaving responsibly, but it is clearly nonsense. Any parameter that depends on the difference between two enormous and uncertain figures is not going to work in any practical way but, even on its own terms, we have fantasy income—the treatment of the fuel levy is only one example—and fantasy expenditure. Rather than demonstrating the Government’s responsibility, their fiscal rule actually illustrates their irresponsibility.

Secondly, the Government claim they want a tax system that rewards and incentivises work. If that were anywhere near true, how does it explain the continued favourable treatment of what, to the older ones among us, used to be called unearned income? Income from rent and property is taxed significantly lower than income from work. If the Government were interested in incentivising work, the burden of taxation could be shifted from work on to these other areas, which are currently taxed at lower rates.

I am a strong supporter of the national insurance scheme. It has lasted for 113 years since it was first introduced as a term by Lloyd George. It was brought into full effect by the post-war Labour Government under the leadership of Jim Griffiths, who I suggest needs to be honoured as much as another leader in that Government, Aneurin Bevan. I am a strong supporter of national insurance because it provides a system of paying contributions while you are at work. You then receive benefits when you cannot work, whether because of illness, unemployment or retirement. That was the system that was established; the fact that we still use the term national insurance demonstrates the support that that approach to providing social benefits continues to enjoy.

As a strong supporter of national insurance, I would like the Minister to tell us what on earth the Government are up to. The proposals floated since the Budget bear all the hallmarks of a bright idea from a Tufton Street Astroturf think tank. They are ill thought out, ill considered and ill formed. Someone has a plan; we do not know what it is, but we are entitled to know. It is absolutely wrong for the Prime Minister or the Chancellor to float ideas without explaining the full implications of what they are saying. Unless they provide us with those full implications, their ideas are worthless.

There are two key questions that arise from removing one leg of the national insurance arrangement—the contributions. First, they must tell us where the money will come from. Will it be from massive economic growth, which would suggest that the entire focus of economic growth will be devoted to removing national insurance contributions? There are more important priorities than that, so the Government need to tell us where the money will come from. Secondly, they also need to tell us what the implications are for contributory benefits, as my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett said. We have a contributory system: if you remove the contributions, you have to tell us what you will do with the contributory benefits. My main focus is pensions, but this applies equally to pre-retirement benefits. I hope the Minister can explain a bit more about what the Government have in mind because unless they provide further information and clarity about the idea, they are seriously misleading people about their intentions.

International Women’s Day

Lord Davies of Brixton Excerpts
Friday 8th March 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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One or two Members of the House drew attention to the terminology used when opening speeches. I will follow my noble friend Lady Gale and open with “my Peers”.

It is a privilege and a pleasure to participate in this debate, and it is certainly not something I take for granted. I will direct my remarks to the scandal of the gender pensions gap, as an important element in the economic exclusion of women.

Broadly speaking, women receive lower state pensions than men, and, when it comes to private pensions, the gap is stunning. Women have private pensions that are, on average, only about one-third of men’s. I have spoken about this before, and no doubt I will speak about it again, but I will just summarise.

There are solutions and there are causes. There is the pay gap, obviously; so much of our pension depends on people’s earnings while they are at work, and women have lower earnings so they have lower pensions. To the extent that we can move on and remove the pay gap, that element of the pensions gap will be eliminated. But there is more to it than that. It is compounded by a number of factors, but the key one is the gender care gap. Care in our society is gendered. Childcare and eldercare are predominately undertaken by women and, because they are providing care, they lose out in their profession and work, and end up with smaller pensions. They work part-time, so their pay is lower, and they take career breaks to provide care for children and parents, and so they lose pension. They lose out even when they return to work, because of the impact on their career progression. Care, as well as pay, is the crucial element that means that women end up with poorer pensions.

What are the solutions? Clearly, we hope we are making progress, but much more needs to be done to eliminate the gap in people’s pay. We also have to address the impact on their pensions of the fact that women are the predominant care providers. To a large extent, we have to move away from that model, but I think progress will be slow. First, pay should be equalised, but there has to be access to comprehensive and affordable childcare and eldercare. We have to look at our workplace practices and the extent to which women are losing out in their career progression and so on, and provide them with information so that they know the impact. We have to look at the structure of our pension provision, and automatic enrolment is one element of that.

The key is that unpaid caregivers have to be provided with additional pension—pension credits of one form or another. My preferred option is that they accrue additional elements of their state pension and, when they come to retirement, their state pension is enhanced in recognition of the unpaid periods of care that they have undertaken during their working lifetime. We all benefit from the care provided by women, not just the family and the children, and that should be recognised in the pensions we provide.

I am looking forward to the Minister’s response. I have raised these issues on a number of occasions and I must say that I have not totally been impressed by the response so far. It is true that they are now producing the figures—as we will be told, no doubt—but the fact is that the gap exists. In the longer term, I want to see a shift in the way care is provided and in pension credits, but in the short term I have a relatively modest aim, which I hope the Minister will assure us that we can meet: whenever we enter into this sort of debate, the gender pensions gap must be automatically included in the issues that need to be addressed. When a Minister stands up, and in the progress of their speech, they must say that we are not just moving towards recognising the gender pensions gap but are looking constructively at solutions that will eliminate it.

Alternative Investment Fund Designation Bill [HL]

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Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, I very much thank the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, for her detailed and comprehensive explanation of why this Bill is needed. The matter before us is straightforward, and the question that has to be answered is why we would not correct this total inconsistency in the way information is provided to potential investors.

With most investments, the charges are added after you invest the money. With investment trusts, the expenses are included within the price you pay. That is the essential difference. To require these two completely different approaches to expressing expenses is clearly inconsistent and properly addressed by this Bill. This is a valuable way in which to present the issue before us, but it is unfortunate, as the noble Baroness explained, that we have to go through the process of doing it through primary legislation when other avenues might be swifter or more straightforward. Unfortunately, they are not available, for whatever reason, so we have to resort to this legislation.

The key reason why this is important is that expenses are important. There may be a slight difference in tone on this issue between me and other commentators on investment matters, but expenses are important; we know what they are and they can be declared. Issues such as value for money and expected future return are important, but they are to a greater or lesser extent assumptions based on assumptions—they are hypotheticals—whereas the expenses are there as part of the contract that is being entered into. There is a tendency within the investment industry to try to downplay the importance of expenses, but they are crucial and it is right and proper that they are the subject of this Bill.

As someone who has been following the financial press for far too long, 60 years or so, I know that the question of investment trusts makes regular appearances in the financial press. It is a staple of the financial journalist to come up with these articles, and they do it on a regular basis. Nevertheless, they are still a bit of a niche approach to investment; there are certain aspects, and to an extent you are presented with a basket of investments—and, very often, they are being sold to you at a discount. You think, “Well, I’ve got a bargain here”, but you have to ask why they are at a discount and whether there is an additional element of risk that you should have in mind when making your decision.

Nevertheless, those investments should be available, and should be presented with the information in a way that provides what the potential investor needs to know. There is a pension point involved here, because they are suitable investments. In some ways, I think they are more suitable for pension funds, which have the resources and expertise to undertake a proper evaluation of the potential investment. Nevertheless, having the expenses declared in a clear and consistent way is an important principle.

That brings us finally to the question of the FCA. What is illustrated here is the extent to which the Financial Conduct Authority is answerable to Parliament; it is an illustration that it is not answerable to Parliament. I hope that our new financial regulation committee will look at this and arrive at a more consistent pattern, whereby these issues receive proper parliamentary consideration.

Finance Bill

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Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, the Finance Bill gives us a chance to raise issues which others may regard as hobby horses but which I think are important topical, technical matters that are worth drawing to the Minister’s attention. I have two issues on my agenda. The first is the implications for recipients of the state pension of the Government’s policy of freezing income tax personal allowances and the second is the taxation of pension benefits following the abolition of the lifetime allowance.

Those with a very long memory will be aware that there is something called the Rooker-Wise amendment, “Rooker” being my noble friend Lord Rooker. Back in 1977, it was laid down for the first time in legislation that the personal allowance should be increased each year in line with inflation. I think that, technically, that is still in force, but successive Governments, including this Government, have opted out, through Finance Bills, of that requirement to index-link. My understanding —and I ask the Minister for confirmation—is that the freeze, which is now proposed to go up to 2027-28, was provided for in last year’s Finance Act and so there is no need for it to appear again in this Bill. Does that imply that the Government have given up on rolling forward the period for which the personal allowance will be frozen? It is shorter this year than last year. Is that a clear statement of policy or has it just been left out? We cannot forecast the Budget. Will we be told? Perhaps we will if it is not in the Budget and not in purdah. Does the freezing last only until the year that we were told it would be or is it going to be rolled forward another year?

That is very pertinent to the main point that I want to raise, which is the impact of freezing the personal allowance on pensioners, particularly those dependent mainly on the state pension. As we know, the state pension is being increased in line with the triple lock, to which all parties are currently committed, so it goes up by inflation, earnings or 2.5%, whereas the personal allowance is frozen. The new state pension is rapidly catching up with the personal allowance. My figures, based on estimates by the Office for Budget Responsibility, are that the new state pension will catch up with the personal allowance by 2027-28 and that in the following year, 2028-29, it will exceed the personal allowance.

The practical problem is that pensions are not part of the PAYE system. Where people receive a state pension—many pensioners receive a state pension that is greater than the new state pension because they have retained rights from the previous scheme—they will owe tax but are not part of the tax system. Instead, at the beginning of the following year they get a brown envelope in the post saying, “You owe us some money”. That is going to become more and more frequent as the state pension increases but the personal allowance is frozen.

I want the Government to say they are fully aware of this problem and are on the case. The obvious answer is that the state pension ought to be brought within the remit of the PAYE system so that people pay the taxes due over the year, as people do out of their earnings. However, I have not yet heard the Government say either that they understand the issue that is coming down the road or that they are going to do anything about it.

I emphasise that the hardest hit will be those earning income entirely from the state pension—maybe they do not have any other income or it is very small—that is slightly larger than the new state pension. We are talking £15,000 a year, which is not exactly riches. That is over £2,000 more than the personal allowance so they will be liable for 20% tax on that £2,000, which is £400. Someone on £15,000 a year is going to get a request for £400, to be paid as a lump sum. That is untenable. It will be a crisis when it arrives, and I just hope the Government can get ahead of the issue.

I turn to pensions taxation. Clause 14 and Schedule 9 deal with the abolition of the lifetime allowance charge. The Financial Secretary said in the Commons, when introducing the Bill, that this was intended as part of a policy to

“remove both barriers to work and incentives not to work”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/12/23; col. 925.]

Those remarks were echoed by the Minister in this House. Indeed, the OBR estimated that the abolition of the lifetime allowance would mean there would be 15,000 more people in work, not least in the medical profession. That is an estimate based on behavioural change so we have to be a bit sceptical, but still it will have had an impact.

However, the Government have been too quick to congratulate themselves on solving the problem of pension taxation on highly skilled professionals, given the extent to which they will still be leaving their jobs because of the impact of the pension tax system. In my view, the annual allowance has always been the bigger problem. Particularly when someone is at work, the annual allowance means that early the following year they get another brown envelope relating to a significantly larger sum of money, saying, in some cases, “You owe a sum in excess of £100,000”. That is not unknown, so this is a serious issue. The Government may think they have addressed that because they have increased the annual allowance from £40,000 to £60,000, but still on £60,000 there will be highly paid, sorely needed professionals who will get a tax charge the following year.

That is not even the biggest problem. There are two further immediate problems. First, there is the taper. This is not the venue to start explaining the technical details of pension taxation, but the taper withdraws the relief available on the annual allowance as incomes increase. It is a classic case of something that those familiar with how taxation works will know: when you remove a taper, you get very high marginal rates. There is a taper on the tax payable after allowing for the annual allowance. The taper is still there, and some professionals argue that that is actually what is driving them out of employment.

There is a second issue that needs to be addressed. The rules have changed. You are taxed on the growth of your pension in a pension scheme. If you have two schemes, under the previous rules each pension scheme was taken separately. If you happened to be in an old pension scheme, which many doctors were, as well as in a new pension scheme because of all the changes that were made to pensions in 2015, you could have a declining value of a pension in one scheme but an increase in the value of the pension in the other. Overall, you would not really have gained much at all, but you were still taxed on the increase in the one scheme even though you were not getting any extra pension.

The Government addressed that, so you were allowed to combine your schemes from the same employer, but there is an issue they have not addressed: if your pension went down last year, you get no credit for that if your pension goes up the following year. So over a two-year period there might be no change in your pension, but you still have to pay tax on the value of the increase of that pension the following year.

Those are the two issues that I have taken the opportunity to draw to the attention of the Minister: the taper and the taxation of negative pensions growth.

Buy Now, Pay Later: Regulation

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Wednesday 7th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Asked by
Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton
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To ask His Majesty’s Government, further to the publication of draft legislation on ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ arrangements in early 2023, when they intend to fulfil their 2021 commitment to regulate such arrangements.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait The Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government’s consultation on proposed draft legislation to bring buy now, pay later into regulation closed in April 2023. In it, the Government reiterated their position that regulation must be proportionate so that borrowers are appropriately protected without unduly inhibiting access to these useful, interest-free products.

Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, I have to say that I find the Answer from the Minister deeply disappointing. It is three years since the Woolard Review concluded that more needed to be done to ensure a healthy, sustainable market in unsecured credit, including, in particular, buy now, pay later. Since that time, the use of buy now, pay later has more than trebled, with the citizens advice bureau warning that consumers are left without vital consumer protection and reporting from its own experience a huge rise in the number of people needing services to deal with the problems created by this form of credit. Is that not just evidence that this is no longer a serious Government prepared to undertake tasks to protect ordinary rank and file people?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I disagree with the noble Lord. Obviously, we have received a large amount of stakeholder feedback to the consultation on the draft regulations. We are considering that feedback and it is very varied. In many cases, when provided affordably and used responsibly, interest-free credit can be incredibly helpful to people trying to balance certain payments from month to month. The average outstanding balance of buy now, pay later is £236. These are relatively small amounts of money that can be shifted from month to month, and it is proving incredibly useful to a number of people.

Climate Risk Models

Lord Davies of Brixton Excerpts
Thursday 25th January 2024

(4 months ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Goodness—that is a very wide-ranging question from my noble friend. I do not think it quite right to say that the Bank of England is committed to the scenarios it used back in 2021. For example, as my noble friend will have seen, two more scenarios were published fairly recently. The Government are not, for example, going to mandate a particular model or scenario for the pensions industry or indeed any part of it, because there are different scenarios out there. They are not forecasts but scenarios, and different groups will feel that different scenarios will come into play. Most pension schemes now have to follow the TCFD requirements, which came into force substantially in October 2022. That will really focus the pension schemes on their climate risks but also the climate opportunities.

Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, I need to mention my entry in the register of interests. Following the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, I urge the Minister to study the report from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, whose central conclusion was that commonly used climate models in financial services are underestimating risk. In particular, it says that the choice of assumptions is not widely understood and they pay insufficient attention to the possibility of overoptimistic scenarios for the future of climate change.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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Of course, my officials and those who work for the independent regulators will look at all evidence, and one often finds that it is very conflicting. The challenges of the models used have been clearly established. There is a higher number of independent transmission channels than previously thought and a lack of historical data; and, of course, one has to anticipate a firm’s reaction to climate change over the longer term. All those things are being considered. This is an evolving science, as I think all noble Lords will agree. However, I go back to the NGFS, of which the Bank of England was a founding member: it consists of 134 central bankers and supervisors from around the world, who are all working together to improve the available scenarios.

HMRC: Tax Returns

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Wednesday 10th January 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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HMRC is well aware and has forecasts for how many people will be filling in tax returns or required to pay tax. It is prepared and has the workforce ready to do so. But I would ask the noble Lord how many more HMRC advisers it will take to collect the tax for the £28 billion a year that Labour intends to spend.

Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, is HMRC gearing up for the potential problems that will arise because of fiscal drag, as has been mentioned, and the triple lock on state pension benefits and its impact? Income tax is not deducted from state pension benefits directly and has to be paid separately, and many people on state pensions have low incomes and will receive demands to pay their unpaid tax the following year. Is the Minister on board with that, and are we going take action to make sure that people on low incomes do not receive large tax demands to be paid from their low state pensions?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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As I have said previously, HMRC is prepared for the type of people that may or may not be in the tax system in the future. At the heart of all this is communication. HMRC sends out tens of millions of messages to people each year. It has a social media campaign and also campaigns in the press to ensure that everybody understands how they can pay the right amount of tax at the right time.

Autumn Statement 2023

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Wednesday 29th November 2023

(5 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, when I first put my name down for this debate, I did so in order to get extremely angry about the announcement in the Autumn Statement on the end of free prescriptions for certain benefit claimants. However, thanks to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, I can save my anger for tomorrow’s debate—save to say that it is a cruel and outrageous proposal that reflects so badly on a Government who have already lost much credibility and honour. Instead, I turn to the proposals in the Autumn Statement relating to pensions, which do not incur my anger; indeed, there are certain aspects that I positively welcome. But I do have some questions.

I welcome the Government’s continued commitment to the triple lock for increases in state pensions. Newspaper columnists and other commentators might speculate about the unpopularity of the cost of the triple lock but, in truth, there is overwhelming support for protecting state pensions, including with the triple lock, which is of particular help to those on low to middle incomes. In truth, the Government did not have any choice. This year’s increases are simply in line with the legislation and did not actually involve the triple lock.

It is worth mentioning here that everyone says pensions were increased by 8.5%, but they were not. No one’s pension was increased by 8.5%. Part of everyone’s pension was increased by 8.5%, but part of their pension was increased by 6.7%, because the triple lock applies only to the basic state pension and the new state pension.

Of course, it was not for want of trying that the Government complied with the triple lock—or the existing law, I should say. A series of kites were flown, clearly in line with government thinking. They might have fiddled with the index, although they did that two years ago and promised never to do it again. Another idea was to fiddle with the time period, but that would have been wide open to legal challenge. So, in the end, they made the right decision and complied with the law—admirable and a true reflection of public sentiment.

Turning to pensions, I welcome the new Minister to her post. I am sure that she will enjoy our future discussions on pensions, because the Autumn Statement included a whole series of proposals relating to pensions; we will have to wait and see whether anything substantial emerges from the proposals. The key of course was the Chancellor returning to his much-touted Mansion House reforms as the basis for

“a comprehensive package of pension reform that will provide better outcomes for savers, drive a more consolidated pensions market and enable pension funds to invest in a diverse portfolio”.

He oversold it a bit, I think; hope is a fine thing. However, I welcome some of the thinking behind these proposals, as they affect pension fund investment. Some of us have been arguing for years that pension funds should be invested in the productive economy and that this should be reflected in the bases used to estimate the contributions required to pay for the benefits promised.

Defined benefit schemes have had a tough time of late, but they still hold substantial funds available for investment, which should be used to grow our economy. Instead, for the past 25 years, they have been increasingly forced by regulatory errors and false concepts of what constitutes safety to invest in what the new City Minister has just called the “safest graveyard”. There was a de facto race to the graveyard for such schemes, with wind-ups seen as the preferred option.

Now, the Government have reversed their approach, with measures being promoted that they say are intended to encourage them to run on, to continue in operation, to continue in active life and to continue to pay benefits. The idea, it is argued, is that larger funds—involving some consolidation—will be able to take advantage of the expertise that is available to invest successfully and, hence, to increase growth in our economy. Can the Minister help us by indicating some sort of timetable for the implementation of these proposals?

A second key theme, looking at defined contribution schemes, is consolidation and the elimination of uneconomic “small pots”. There is also the idea of building on the success of Labour’s policy of automatic enrolment, or, to put it less charitably, “let’s learn from our mistakes so far”. The move here is to what is termed in the Statement as the “lifetime provider” model. How committed are the Government to early implementation of change in this area? I was present at a meeting yesterday with the new Pensions Minister and gathered the impression that the Government were only at an early stage of their thinking.

Finally, I want a commitment on the changes mentioned in the Statement to the rules on when surpluses can be repaid. The use of “repaid” is slightly misleading. The Statement says that this will include

“new mechanisms to protect members”.

The starting point is that the money in a pension scheme is the members’ money and should be used only where there is a benefit to the member. However, where discretionary benefits require the consent of the employer, it is possible that there is a deal to be done that can suit the employer and the members. But such a deal should be done only with the fullest disclosure to those who matter—the members—and only after consultation with them and the unions that represent them. This is obviously all subject to consultation, but I hope the noble Baroness will reaffirm the commitment in the Statement to protect members.

Alternative Investment Fund Managers Regulations 2013

Lord Davies of Brixton Excerpts
Monday 13th November 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, the operation of the consumer panel and other panels of the FCA is a matter for the FCA. I am sure that it draws on all its different panels, as appropriate, when taking forward its work programme.

Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, one recognises the important issue being raised, but the context has to be understood of a financial services industry that does not have an unblemished record, in terms of the personal pensions and endowment insurance scandals. The FCA has to recognise that it cannot take the good will of the industry towards the client as given.

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, some of the issues that the noble Lord sets out are why it is important to take forward the programme of reform in a measured way that takes into account the interests of all involved in the sector, whether industry or consumers, and makes sure that we have proper consultation in everything that we do.