Advice for applicants

Part of Savings (Government Contributions) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:45 am ar 1 Tachwedd 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 9:45, 1 Tachwedd 2016

I will try to observe your stricture, Mr Wilson, and not go over ground that we have already covered.

The Government do not disagree with the intention that everyone should get good advice before they take out a pension, and I certainly would not argue with the fact that for many of us, however well-informed we might like to think ourselves, such things can be confusing. The reason I will ask that the clause be withdrawn is simply that the solution it presents is not correct. Also, there are things in place to steer people, which I will touch on.

It is worth reminding the Committee about the definition of advice and guidance. “Advice” is financial advice involved in the provision of a personal recommendation for a specific product. It takes into account the wider circumstances of the person to whom the advice is given, and must be suitable for them. The definition also mentions regulated products. That is at the heart of the matter. I give a commitment that the Government will ensure that clear and accessible information about the lifetime ISA and Help to Save is available, so that potential customers can make an informed choice about whether the accounts are right for them.

Our impact assessment, which was based on a costing certified by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, shows that our costings do not assume that people will opt out of workplace pensions to save into a lifetime ISA. However, as I have outlined, it is ultimately the role of the independent Financial Conduct Authority, not the Government, to set the regulatory framework for providers that will offer the lifetime ISA, including setting out any suitability tests that should apply. The FCA will consult on its regulatory framework shortly. It will ensure that providers are transparent to customers about the product, and that the products are sold with suitable safeguards in place.

I recognise the importance of individuals making an informed choice about whether Help to Save is right for them. Some may well be the same people who stand to benefit enormously from auto-enrolment. I have stated our commitment to that a number of times. We know that the Help to Save target audience may have less experience of financial products than the population on average. That is why we have already committed to work with interested parties to ensure that the right support and information are available, so that eligible people can decide whether the account is right for them. That will involve information and support from Government and the account provider, but we are also keen to explore a role for local organisations that are well placed to support the target population, such as local charities, advice bodies, social housing providers and the Churches, many of which have very good outreach and advice provision for people suffering from financial exclusion.

While we want to ensure that people have the information that they need, we must ensure that opening an account is as straightforward as possible. Requiring the account provider to give financial advice to every applicant makes the account application process more complex and time-consuming, and risks discouraging eligible people from opening an account. Countless studies show that the more hurdles there are to opening an account online, the more people are likely to fall away. Getting the balance right is really important.