The minister for pensions and financial inclusion Guy Opperman has refused to confirm that the government will deliver the long-awaited pensions dashboard.
MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee asked Opperman (pictured) today whether reports that the dashboard will be scrapped were accurate.
‘No decision has been made, when it is made, it will be communicated in the usual and appropriate way,’ he replied.
Pressed on whether the decision will be made soon, the minister said ‘I will be very disappointed if it is not this year’.
The committee questioned Opperman’s change of tone, stating he previously said to have ‘no doubt’ that the dashboard will be delivered. ‘Clearly you can quote back to me statements that I have said in the past and I fully accept statements in the past. That said, the department and government have been doing a feasibility study, they are then reviewing that, and a decision will be made,' he said.
'The long and short of it is, you'll understand that this is a matter on which the government has to make a decision. No decision has been made. It is fair to say that the chancellor, in 2016, set out that an enthusiasm for a dashboard, how it is then provided and what shape and form it is, is genuinely a matter for ongoing debate.’
Opperman explained that there is currently a ‘proper and legitimate debate’ around whether there should be one or multiple dashboards, whether the platform should be government or organisation-run, how data is accessed and handled and whether there will be any commercial benefit.
He noted that the feasibility study is still ongoing and will be communicated ‘in the usual way’ once complete.
Considering whether data for the dashboard should be digitised, Opperman suggested that there is no statutory obligation to compel people to bring data in paper form into a digital format.
However he added: ‘There is no doubt that there is pressure being applied to bring certain possessors of information into a 21st century format, so the information is accessible…[In years to come] it would be my wish that individual trustees and schemes had taken action to put their information in a data format.’
While the pensions minister stated that he ‘cannot be drawn on the dashboard’, he explained that the government has been successful in building greater transparency in the sector.
Opperman highlighted that the ‘first thing that this government did was introduce the single financial guidance body. At the heart of that is a greater understanding of financial capability and at the heart of that is better guidance in relation to pensions’.
He added that under the leadership of Smart Pension non-executive director Ruston Smith, a taskforce is working to develop a single or dual page statement that will ‘go out to every holder of a pension, [detailing] what their pension rights are going forward.
‘This is a massive step forwards in terms of greater understanding,’ Opperman said.
Scrapping the dashboard would prove controversial with many pension providers who have supported it. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has written to the Work and Pensions Select Committee to express its concern.
ABI director general Huw Evans emphasised how the dashboard is crucial in:
- assisting the nine million newly auto-enrolled pension savers;
- minimising the scope for scammers and to enable the remedies proposed in the FCA's Retirement Outcomes Review;
- as well as being a 'central assumption' in TPR's Innovation and Regulation Plan.
'DWP is the largest Department in Whitehall and is funded by the taxpayer to do more than one thing at a time. There is no reason why this project should not be proceeding at pace given the work already done and the high levels of support from the industry, from your committee and from consumer groups.
'We would be grateful for any further support you can provide in ensuring this key project is not halted at the 11th hour,' Evans concluded.