Govt defeated on four Pension Schemes Bill amendment votes in HoL

The government has been defeated in four Pension Schemes Bill amendment votes in the House of Lords (HoL), including on the way pensions dashboards will operate.

The four defeats all added amendments to the Pensions Schemes Bill in the report stage of the bill’s passage through the HoL.

Once the HoL has completed its consideration of the bill, it will be sent to the House of Commons where the government can either accept the amendments in full, offer alternative amendments, or to reject the amendments and send the bill back to the HoL.

Peers in the HoL voted in favour of amendment 52, with 281 votes to 244, which stated that pensions dashboards will not include a provision for financial transaction activities, including transfers and consolidation.

Amendment 63, which was passed with 270 votes to 236, ensures that the publicly-owned dashboard service will have to be operational for at least a year before commercial dashboard services can operate, if the bill becomes legislation in its current form.

Furthermore, this amendment stipulates that the government will have to have reported to parliament on the dashboard's operation and effectiveness before commercial services can be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to enter the market.

“As we saw from the debate in the HoL, there is lot of support for the idea of a pensions dashboard but there are still key unanswered questions about how to protect consumers in this new online environment,” commented The People’s Pension head of policy, Tim Gosling.

“These concerns are legitimate, given the £3trn in assets manged in the UK pensions sector and past failings in the regulation of DB and DC pensions.

“Previously, when new markets have opened in pensions, we have often seen consumer detriment first and regulation second. It’s crucial that the consumer protection regime for dashboards is built on an understanding of past problems so that savers can use dashboards with confidence.”

HoL peers also voted in favour of amendment 32, which requires collective defined contribution (CDC) scheme trustees to make an assessment of the extent to which the scheme is operating “in a manner fair to all members”. Peers voted in favour with 270 votes to 246.

The fourth defeat for the government came with amendment 71, which relates to a separate regulatory approach for open DB schemes.

These regulations included not acting in a way that would accelerate their closure, that affordability of contributions to employers and members was maintained, and that open DB schemes are not treated differently to other schemes.

LCP partner and former Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, said that it was “unusual" for the government to be defeated so many times on “what has until now been seen as a largely non-controversial piece of legislation”.

“This suggested that they have misjudged the mood on some of these issues and have failed to listen,” he continued.

“The government now needs to address the concerns raised by members of the HoL so that this important legislation can progress.

“In particular, it needs to make sure that the new funding regime proposed for open DB schemes does not have the effect of driving them to close.

“It also needs to make sure that the pensions dashboard is set up in a way that protects the interests of consumers and makes sure they are not at risk of scams.”

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