The Conservative minority government has set out its plans for a bill to merge the Money Advice Service (MAS), The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and Pension Wise.
The consolidation was first mooted in October, when ministers said they wanted to make it "as easy as possible" for the public to access financial guidance, and also followed former chancellor George Osborne's proposal to reform and "slim down" TPAS and MAS.
In a background briefing note for the Queen's Speech, issued today, the government confirmed it would bring forward legislation to introduce the merged body, which will be paid for out of existing levies on pension schemes and the financial services industry.
The note said there was a "clear demand" for the three bodies' services, noting 61,000 phone calls and face-to-face discussions with Pension Wise in 2015/16, and said merging the body would "improve the UK's financial capability by providing a more joined-up service to help people make effective financial decisions".
It also neglected to include Conservative manifesto promises to give trustees and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) more powers to block mergers and acquisitions, and introduce a criminal offence for company boards to deliberately or recklessly underfund a defined benefit scheme.
AJ Bell senior analyst Tom Selby added there were also questions to be answered around the planned cut to the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA), which was announced in the Spring Budget but then removed from the Finance Bill ahead of the snap election.
"With all the noise surrounding Brexit negotiations it's easy to forget vital domestic personal finance reforms need addressing," he said. "In particular, we now need urgent clarity on how the MPAA cut will be applied and whether the proposed dividend allowance reduction will still be introduced in April next year. This legislation is likely to be swept up in a new finance bill this year.
"We are also still waiting for the government to implement a crucial clampdown on pension scammers, including a ban on cold-calling. These are incredibly important consumer protection measures that must not be further delayed."
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