UK Government defends low stakeholder figures

UK – The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has countered suggestions that the uptake of stakeholder pensions is disappointing and said it is satisfied with the latest figures.

The comments come in response to the Association of British Insurers’ (ABI) suggestion that it is disappointed to see only 570,000 policies sold since the government first introduced stakeholder last April.

“Considering it was a brand new product and that people’s attitudes to personal pensions are not going to change overnight, we think we’ve made a decent start,” says a DWP spokeswoman, who adds that it will be continuing its advertisement campaign for personal pensions by means of brochures and television adverts.

Although the DWP spokeswoman concedes stakeholder is fraught with unnecessary red tape, she says the department will wait until the outcome of the various reviews in progress before it decides on any modifications.

The spokeswoman says that the review being undertaken by Alan Pickering, former chairman of the National Association of Pension Funds, into obstacles preventing a wider take-up of personal pensions is of particular interest. “We can’t say how quickly or to what extent we can change things yet, but we are aware that the bureaucracy surrounding personal pensions is pretty heavy,” she says.

The admission comes as Alistair Darling told the Financial Times today that the government will consider easing the regulatory framework surrounding stakeholder and other personal pensions products in order to boost sales.

“The regulations and legislation behind personal pensions is immense. What we feel that the DWP essentially needs to consider when looking at stakeholder is whether some of these regulations aren’t cropping up twice. Stakeholder as a stand alone product has a robust regulatory framework in place but it is also sometimes subject to the regulations governing the personal pensions market as a whole,” says DWP’s spokesperson.

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