Pension schemes

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 9 Ionawr 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 2:15, 9 Ionawr 2018

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We want to move away from the passivity and disempowerment that people in that situation feel and towards their having the confidence to engage, if they so choose. We have to ensure that the mechanisms are there for them to choose. It is a little bit like democracy at the end of the day: we have elections, and if someone does not want to participate in them, that is a matter for them, but at least we have them. People are given the capacity to participate, which is no different, in principle, from the point my hon. Friend was making.

As well as better protecting savers’ long-term financial interests, this will be good news for those who believe that part of the current system of capitalism has lost a little bit of its moral compass in certain situations; I alluded to that a little earlier with some of the scams that the Minister referred to. It is a bit like this House, where we have to feel accountable to the people who send us here. Whatever the system is—politics, business or pensions—we have to feel accountable, and more importantly, we have to be accountable.

In addition, savers who feel connected to their money are more likely to see it as a medium for the expression of their values. That goes to the heart of what my hon. Friend touched on, and indeed to the point I made earlier about how transparency and accountability should matter to those whose only concern is making markets work more efficiently. It has to go beyond that. Efficient market theory presumes that consumers act in their own interests. However, in the capital markets, decisions are being made not by consumers but by intermediaries acting on their behalf, so there is a disconnect to some degree there as well.

Moreover, consumers themselves are deeply disconnected from their money, and the opt-out mechanism of pensions auto-enrolment is predicated on that fact. That means that intermediaries themselves are subject to limited market discipline. The pensions market may never be dominated by active and engaged consumers, which comes back to the point I made before, but the more consumers are active and engaged, the better the market will work. I do not think there is any question about that.

In addition, accountability should build trust in the system, even among those who choose not to engage, thus encouraging people to keep saving in effect. This is an important consideration in a market in which just 70% of retail investors trust investment firms to “do the right thing” and consumers cite lack of trust as the No. 1 reason for opting out of private pension saving, which is a real shame.