Minister for Pensions and financial inclusion minister Guy Opperman has pledged to make secondary legislation for the Pension Schemes Act his “number one” priority over the coming months.
The Pension Schemes Act - which Opperman said would make pensions "safer, better and greener" became law yesterday over a year after being introduced to the Houses of Parliament.
As well as greater defined benefit protections and punishments, including fines of up to £1m and seven-year jail sentences, the act contains provisions for the establishment of both pensions dashboards and collective defined contribution (CDC) schemes, but also puts additional reporting requirements on trustees for ESG-related issues.
In a briefing this morning, Opperman said he was hugely proud of the legislation, which had been the result of two years of effort, multiple consultations and a "tremendous effort" by the team at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
But he acknowledged much of the detail in the Act would rely on secondary legislation - work on which he said was his top priority and a job he hoped would be completed as soon as possible.
The minister said: "A bill is only finished when you have done all your regulations and the number one priority for me now is to drive forward all the regulations and get the meat on the bones."
Opperman particularly noted Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) regulations, which he said the government expected would be on the statute book before COP26 in November.
New pensions bill
Opperman said there were no immediate plans for another pensions bill - noting that the DWP would have to both agree to and then bid for another bill and would then need to be in a position to legislate on that bill for it to proceed.
The minister said progress on a statutory framework for the regulation of superfunds - which would likely be a key part of any future bill - was progressing, and a lot of work had been done on the issue, but he noted the department was not yet in a position where it could legislate.
As such, the minister said he didn't have a bill to be put forward for the next Queen's Speech, which is expected to be held in May.
But he said this didn't mean there wouldn't be another bill before the next general election in 2024.
Opperman also expressed his hopes that the Act would significantly accelerate the progress of pension dashboards - noting that the secondary regulation that was key to progressing the dashboards was now a step closer; and that the passing of the Act would enable a lot more focus to be directed towards other aspects of the dashboards.
He also said that some organisations in the industry had said they wouldn't make the investments needed to make pensions dashboards a reality until primary legislation had been passed - an objection he said had now gone away.
Opperman said the government "remained committed" to implementing findings of the 2017 auto-enrolment (AE) review but said Covid-19 had got in the way of progress on this issue - also noting it was a "whole of government" decision on when and how to take this forward.
Despite this, the minister said he hoped that, if the DWP was able to put forward a second pensions bill in this parliament, that AE would be included. He also said he would continue looking at what he called "AE 2.0" issues, such as those around costs and charges.
In the briefing, the minister also talked about the work the industry was doing on scams but warned that, while the door had now been closed on cold-calling, 95% of the current problem seemed to be around fake websites purporting to be well-known brands offering opportunities that were "too good to be true".
Opperman said Google had written to the DWP regarding the issue of adverts to fake sites appearing on its website and the department was now having ongoing dialogue with the firm on the issue to try and stem the issue.
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