Guest Comment: Importance of a consistent Pensions Minister

Written by PMI technical consultant Tim Middleton

Fans of the cult movie Spinal Tap will recall that the eponymous heavy metal band had significant difficulties retaining a drummer for any length of time. A succession of percussionists joined and then left the band, including one John ‘Stumpy’ Pepys, who, according to legend, died after a ‘bizarre gardening accident.’

Move to the governmental supervision of pensions reform, and we witness life imitating art. Since the creation of the post of Pensions Minister in 1998, there have been no fewer than 14 appointments to the post (although, to be fair, Stephen Timms has done the job twice).

The honourable exception, of course, has been Sir Steve Webb, who served throughout the course of the coalition government. He brought to the role both enthusiasm and expertise, and his influence on the pensions industry has been beneficial and long lasting.

We in the industry must confess a vested interest, but it is surely fair to say that the role of Pensions Minister is important enough to deserve serious commitment. Ensuring the needs of an ageing society are met in an effective and affordable manner is critical, and the post should be seen as more than just a short cut up the greasy pole of ministerial seniority.

The current parliament saw the role downgraded to Under Secretary of State. We can only hope that whatever government emerges after 8 June will restore full ministerial status and that the new incumbent demonstrates real dedication to what is a vital and demanding role. Certainly, it deserves more than the next parliamentary incarnation of Stumpy Pepys.

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