Pensions minister Webb sets out vision for future of UK pensions
UK - Pensions minister Steve Webb has told pension scheme trustees in London today that one of his principal aims while in office is to simplify the basic state pension system and make NEST and auto-enrolment work.
Recently-announced scheme certification rules for opting out of NEST had been designed to allow good company schemes to carry on as they were and to enable the auto-enrolment of employees with the minimum of fuss, he added.
Webb said auto-enrolment would be a trigger for pension schemes to engage with young people, who traditionally have been averse to joining pension schemes.
They could also be encouraged to get more engaged in pensions by the use of language widely understood, as well as emphasising the employer contribution and by taking pension deduction at source, the minister explained.
He said he expected there would be much discussion about auto-enrolment on Facebook and that this could encourage peer group endorsement of pensions.
He added that the NEST Corporation was trying to find a new pensions language for those who do not understand pensions and to encourage engagement with young people, for example, by enabling Nest members to check their pensions on their iPhones.
Separately, the minister stressed that the UK government had "very grave concerns" about imposing EU-wide regulations on UK pension schemes.
On the implementation of the scrapping of the default retirement age, Webb said the government would publish a consultation paper later this month.
But Webb also faced hostile questions about the proposed switch from the retail price index (RPI) to the consumer price index (CPI) for pensions increases from next year.
One delegate, Mike Post, a trustee at the BA pensions scheme, said BA members would face a 20% loss in pension payments over their retirement if the scheme were forced to adopt CPI.
The minister said that because the government had decided that increases to state benefits and public sector pensions would be linked to CPI, it took the view that private sector pensions should be treated similarly.
He said that RPI had been very volatile due to its link with mortgages, but that only 7% of pensioners have a mortgage and that an IFS survey showed RPI overstated inflation due to the mortgage element.
"The CPI advisory committee is looking at how you can include owner occupier housing costs in the index," he added.
Although CPI was lower than RPI, Webb said he believed that over the long term CPI would be lower than RPI by only 1% and that views differed as to which measure was better.
"Many schemes have not guaranteed to pay RPI increases, and if it isn't guaranteed, the CPI will apply," he said.