Blog: Another Ruddy pensions secretary

A couple of weeks ago, as the Brexit saga embarked upon yet another chapter, the pensions industry found itself where it has so many times in recent years.

As Prime Minister Theresa May laid her Brexit proposal in front of her Cabinet for the first time, reports of disgruntled Cabinet members emerged, and before you knew it, the fifth Work and Pensions Secretary in two years, Esther McVey, had resigned.

And so, the merry-go-round continues.

McVey may have had her principled reasons for quitting the role, but her principles during her time as Work and Pensions Secretary, tasked with the rollout of controversial Universal Credit, had very little effect in the world of pensions.

Speaking before the appointment of Amber Rudd, former Pensions Minister Steve Webb said that, as has always been, pensions policy will continue to be directed from the Pensions Minister, and not at any other point has this seemed more necessary.

Current Pensions Minister Guy Opperman, or so it appears, seems to be growing into the role. Having seen him speak at industry events on a number of occasions now, he is certainly engaging a lot more with the industry, while developing a good handle on the important issues – stability here is key.

There is still a huge amount on the agenda that needs to be sorted out, and Rudd, tasked with getting on board with May’s Brexit, as well fixing the Universal Credit rollout, is unlikely to be able to give it much of her energy.

The pensions dashboard, the plight of the Waspi women and the bumper pensions legislation bill promised by Opperman in the summer of next year are all things, depending on the length of her tenure, that Rudd will have to oversee.

In the first week and a half of her role, she has been more visible than McVey was throughout her whole 11 months as Work and Pensions Secretary, and while her public appearances have not all been about pensions, it delivers an insight into how the two are willing to approach the brief.

McVey has always been quick to roll out the party parade while patting her own back for achievements that were laid out before her time on the front bench. For example, the “pensions revolution” hailed earlier this year as auto-enrolment hit 10 million, and the countless times that unemployment numbers hit record lows.

These are not to be totally scoffed at, but perhaps her ability to take credit for everything is. Who knows, the pensions dashboard could be living with the dodos if she’d had her way.

Rudd has her own demons to lay to rest after her time as Home Secretary. So, here’s hoping she will be given the time and ability to get to grips with the pensions issues that will affect millions of people, and nobody is “misled” along the way.

But with May’s agreement looking as though it will be torpedoed in parliament before the end of the year, coupled with the chance that the Prime Minister could well go down with the ship, there is more than a little chance that Rudd will be in her post for no longer than a few months.

So, what then for pensions policy? Well, it will probably continue to be shaped by Opperman and the Treasury, but as the Brexit shockwaves continue ripple outwards, the chance that he and the Conservative government could not see this through is looking increasingly likely.

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