Michael Klimes takes a look at what politicians said about pensions at this year's party conferences
The annual political party conferences were noticeably quieter on pension policy proposals compared to previous years as the shadow of Brexit loomed over them.
Headline speeches included Vince Cable talking about an "exit from Brexit" at the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth on 16-19 September; Jeremy Corbyn proclaiming that Labour "are the political mainstream now" at his party's gathering in Brighton from 24-27 September; and Theresa May outlined her "plan for Britain" at the Conservative conference in Manchester on 1-4 October.
However, pension policies did emerge outside the keynote speeches by leaders at fringe events. So what did they propose?
Labour had the more substantive party conference on the subject of pensions. It made two proposals: collective defined contribution (CDC) plans for savers, and early access to the state pension for women born in the 1950s.
Shadow pensions minister Alex Cunningham spoke at a fringe event organised by the Pensions Policy Institute and LV= on 25 September.
Cunningham said Labour will call for CDC schemes in order to protect savers against longevity risk and costs.
The Stockton North MP, who took on the shadow ministerial role last year, also pledged to tackle "opaque fees and structures", reiterating a key focus he outlined at the start of his tenure.
He said: "The Labour Party will look to allow pension funds to be established in the UK on a collaborative basis along the lines of the Dutch pension system. It is recognised as one of the best pension systems in the world.
"CDC pensions give members higher and more certain pensions than would otherwise be available to them. They deliver a reliable base level of income during retirement, which helps members plan for their retirement, that's them planning and taking control."
He would also "push the government" to put in place legislation enabling such structures.
Meanwhile the party also pledged to allow women affected by the accelerated increase in the state pension age - made to equalise the age between men and women - to retire up to two years early with a reduced pension.
In a set piece speech at the conference on 25 September, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions Debbie Abrahams attacked the government's approach towards the state pension and occupational schemes.
She said: "The acceleration of women's state pension equalisation by this government has left hundreds of thousands of women in dire straits. I've heard of women sofa-surfing in their 60s, living off the kindness of family or friends, having used up all their savings, because they can no longer do the work they used to.
"These women feel understandable anger that they have done the right thing and that the government has failed to deliver its side of the bargain."
Labour says it understands these women's concerns and would act.
"As a starter, I can announce today that a Labour government in power now, would allow these women to retire up to two years early," she continued.
Paul Masterton MP said pensions were pushed out by Brexit and housing at this year's conference.
"Given the magnitude of the issues it was no surprise that pensions did not feature high up on the agenda. However, there were fringe meetings that featured some interesting talks about transparency, governance and member outcomes," he said.
Pensions minister Guy Opperman was due to speak at an Age UK event on 3 October hosted by the Conservatives Women's Organisation but pulled out.
Aegon head of pensions Kate Smith who was on the panel said: "It was disappointing that he [Opperman] pulled out. We were meant to speak about women and pensions but Anne Milton [the minister of state for apprenticeships and skills] turned up. She did not have much knowledge about pensions and talked about women and apprenticeships. I got the impression pensions were not on the agenda."
First Actuarial director Henry Tapper who attended the conference as a delegate had the same impression.
"There was virtually no engagement with pensions at the conference this year and I submitted a pensions question at the main debate but this was rejected. There is no big move to do anything on pensions right now and I don't think there is anyone in the conservative party at any level prepared to talk about pensions policy," he said.
Just head of public affairs Ben Stafford, who also attended, said a wide concern expressed at fringe meetings was the lack of support given to people with regards to the pension freedoms.
He said: "If people who the use freedoms make bad decisions due to a lack of support this will eventually become apparent. These are things which can be avoided if the right steps are put in place."
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