Following the General Election result and a parliamentary reshuffle, this month has seen The Right Honourable Guy Opperman MP appointed as parliamentary under-secretary for pensions and financial inclusion at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The position, which will be referred to as minister for pensions and financial inclusion, replaces that of parliamentary under-secretary of state for pensions. But what will this mean for the pensions industry in general?
Thanks to Theresa May's wafer-thin majority in the House of Commons, the reality is that the appointment will mean very little. Opperman's appointment comes after Richard Harrington had little more than a year in the position as did pensions expert Baroness Ros Altmann which means the position has become somewhat of a revolving door position in the government. The result of this is that in a political climate that is full of uncertainty thanks to the election result and the Brexit negotiations for example, we seem to have no stability in the position which can help to give savers confidence in the pension system.
Taking a look back at the previous holders of the position, it is clear that when the last person had a prolonged period of time in the position, Sir Steve Webb during the coalition, genuine and strategic changes were made to pensions policy. This includes the introduction of pension freedoms and the introduction of auto enrolment which has seen millions more people saving for retirement.
Whilst it is hoped that we will see a period of stability in the position that oversees UK pensions, the reality is that this is unlikely. In today's turbulent political climate, we could soon see another general election, a Tory leadership or a Labour government, all of which would almost certainly see a change of minister. Even if we were to see Opperman stay in the position for a prolonged period of time, with Theresa May's wafer-thin majority and reduced parliamentary time thanks to Brexit bills, it is unlikely we will see anything radical from the government in terms of pensions.