Proposals for new pensions commission garner cross party support

There is strong cross-party and frontbench support for a new independent pensions commission, according to joint research from the Fabian Society and Bright Blue.

After consulting experts, the centre-left and centre-right think tanks called for a one-off review of pensions policy, modelled on the Turner commission, that starts this year and lasts until 2022 at the latest.

A blueprint drawn up by the duo recommended that the commission develops into a permanent scrutiny body that would provide regular forecasts and analysis, and host major reviews of policy every decade.

The blueprint suggested that, while the permanent body should have an open remit, the initial review should focus on immediate issues such as the future of auto-enrolment and pension decumulation.

As a separate review process already exists for the state pension age, it was recommended that this be excluded from the initial review but brought under the concern of the permanent commission.

The envisioned permanent body would stand separate from government departments but be placed on a statutory footing with full access to official data and modelling, reporting to both the Treasury and Department for Work and Pensions.

The think tanks proposed that ministers appoint around five commissioners, as well as a small secretariat of civil servants and expert secondees.

The plans suggested that these commissioners represent employers, employees, self-employed people, the pensions industry, and independent experts, and be headed by an independent chair.

Pensions Minister Guy Opperman said: “A new commission has cross-party support, and will help us map out the future of auto-enrolment, so we can boost contribution rates in the coming decades, and explore how we can support savers with pensions freedom reforms.

“Let’s not give up on the progress we’ve made in pensions through cross-party working. It's time to explore ideas for the next generation.”

Fabian Society general secretary, Andrew Harrop, said the consensus between the two thinks tanks from opposite sides of the aisle showed that all sides could unite around a call for a big picture review of pensions.

“At the start of a new parliament, there will never be a better time to establish a rigorous and independent pensions commission,” he added.

Bright Blue chief executive, Ryan Shorthouse, said: “New pensions policies are now needed, which can command support across the political spectrum and ensure people have higher incomes and good advice in retirement in the decades ahead.

“In fact, a new pensions commission – permanently located at the heart of Whitehall – could provide the expert analysis and advice that is needed to develop good pensions policy and hold the government to account.”

Politicians and experts interviewed during the project included Pensions Minister Guy Opperman, Shadow Pensions Minister Jack Dromey, Work and Pensions Committee former chair Frank Field and Work and Pensions Committee member Nigel Mills.

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