The UK opposition has condemned the approach by the pensions minister to delay the implementation of a cap on defined contribution (DC) charges after he avoided addressing MPs on the matter.
Steve Webb, current pensions minister, this morning confirmed rumours about a delay in its DC reform regulation, addressing an industry conference.
A written ministerial statement given to MPs in the House of Commons met this address.
However, Gregg McClymont, spokesman for Labour on pensions matters, said it was inappropriate for the minister not to face questions from MPs.
McClymont also highlighted that the statement made no commitment to implementing the reforms – rather, it states that no cap will be enforced before April 2015.
“I know that’s not the same thing as saying a cap will be introduced by April 2015,” McClymont said.
He also said, even if the government had been clearer, significant questions would remain on how it would retain focus to execute the policy in the run-up to an election.
The next general election will take place a month after the government’s new proposed date of implementation.
“This is a wider characterisation of the government’s pension policy,” he said.
“When it comes to 2015, and we look back at the government’s achievement, they will be much less than we were led to believe.”
McClymont said that, while the government had successfully implemented a new flat-rate state pension, it failed to ensure auto-enrolment worked effectively as a policy for replacement income.
However, reaction from the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) was more positive than the opposition government.
Helen Forrest, head of policy at the lobby group, said it was delighted by the postponement until 2015.
“Our members continue to work extremely hard to implement automatic enrolment effectively and successfully,” she said. ”Providing these employers with at least 12 months’ notice of any changes in the rules relating to charges is a sensible step.”
Provider of master trust The People’s Pension was less receptive, however.
Head of policy Darren Philp said: “The hope is that reaching an industry standard is not delayed indefinitely and the government, regulators and the wider pensions industry get to grips with the issue sooner rather than later.”
The chief executive at Now Pensions, Morten Nilsson, said the minister’s spoken commitment to the charge cap would be good news for those being auto enrolled in later years.
“While savers will be disappointed these changes won’t be introduced sooner, examining charges hand in hand with scheme quality makes good sense,” he said.
Will Aitken, senior consultant at Towers Watson, said the original implementation date would only have affected companies with 50-249 employees.
“This might make no difference to when larger employers and small firms have to comply,” he said. “It always seemed unfair to make medium-sized firms hit a moving target.”