The government is 'committed' to building a pensions dashboard despite reports that it will be scrapped, parliamentary under-secretary of state for pensions and financial inclusion Guy Opperman has said.
Speaking exclusively to New Model Adviser® at the Conservative Party Conference, Opperman (pictured) outlined the plan for the dashboard, which following an announcement in parliament last month will now be entirely delivered by the private sector.
‘So the long and the short of it is that we have to do a feasibility study, that is an ongoing work in progress,’ Opperman said.
‘At the end of that process, the government is committed to proceed with this, the hope is that we will get in at the next Queen’s speech in the summer of next year. We will get effectively a private pension bill, in which we will do the [defined benefit pensions] white paper, we will do [collective defined contribution pensions] and we will do pension dashboard, and the legislation required in particular for all those three things.’
Reports have suggested the secretary of state for work and pensions Esther McVey planned to drop the dashboard. However earlier in the day she mentioned the dashboard in her speech to the main conference.
Opperman also played down any suggestions of a rift between McVey and him over the dashboard project. ‘That’s not the case at all. Two and two does not equal five in this case,’ he said.
According to Opperman the launch of the dashboard has been delayed because it is a 'complex project' rather than any political disagreement.
‘Now the principle is really easy, and the holy grail of what we’re trying to achieve is really easy, but bear in mind dashboards in countries like Australia and Scandinavia, they were dealing with barely an 80th of the number of pension providers that’s we’re having to deal with. So the scale of what we’re dealing with is massive.
‘Trying to incorporate the state pension is complex. Tying to have the accessibility of what a dashboard looks like is complex.
‘The processes of actually getting data in a secure way and then sharing it onto a site is complex, this is not simple stuff. I’d long ago taken the view that it would be much better to be clear about what we’re going to achieve longer term, and make sure that we’ve thought through and addressed the particular hurdles that we’re gonna have to cross, than whack out a feasibility study and say “yes it’s really easy, yes it’s really simple,” without having done a proper consideration of all the particular complexities, which is what we’re trying to do.’
Opperman also outlined his plans for further pension reform, including cementing legislation for collective defined contribution (CDC) pension schemes pioneered by Lib Dem pension minister Steve Webb, and later shelved by his successor Ros Altmann.
‘Clearly that is dependent on an awful lot of ifs and buts within the parliamentary process. But we are trying to get all our consultations out,’ he said.
‘You will have seen I’ve consulted massively on defined benefit stuff, I’m consulting on CDCs shortly, if the feasibility study is a positive one which I hope it will be - I’m in charge of it - then we’ll be consulting thereafter on dashboard and on what that looks like. And we will then be in a position that by relatively soon thereafter we can then submit forward draft legislation, [and] get the legislation through the house thereafter.’
Opperman added that he would be piloting the idea of auto-enrolment for the self-employed once the ‘making tax digital’ agenda had been sorted.
‘We are working on it, we’ve got some good plans there. Once making tax digital comes to fruition in particular we’ll do that. We’ve got some pilot projects going out on self-employed auto-enrolment coming up and there’s good stuff on there.’