Into the Labour bear pit

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

Mr McClymont, proudly sporting copies of his must-read Fabian Society pamphlet Pensions at Work, That Work, said pensions were a big issue that would not go away. He believed the key was to ensure pensions represented value for money. And the only way that can happen, he said, was through full charges disclosure.

Like Dame Anne, Mr Evans said it was key that auto-enrolment worked. Understandably, he then went on to highlight the work that the ABI had done to ensure people retiring were encouraged to shop around for the most appropriate annuity (through its retirement choices initiative and its annuity window). He also said it was crucial that a sensible debate was held on the future for higher rate relief on pension contributions.

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I, sitting on the far right of the debating table, was left to the end. Surprisingly, I was much in agreement with what the three Labourites had already said. Auto-enrolment has to be a pensions success story, work pensions need to represent better value for money (something the Office of Fair Trading will address shortly with its recommendations for reform of work pensions ), and the ABI needs to build on its work in helping to improve retirement outcomes for hundreds of thousands of people every year.

I did add a few other ideas. They included an end to the constant political interference in pensions that leads to continual attacks on lifetime and annual allowances and which, in turn, breeds investor confusion and distrust. I also said it was crucial that the Isa regime was allowed to continue to prosper.

And not forgetting my audience, I acknowledged Labour’s work while in government in bringing into being the Pension Protection Fund and in coming up with the auto-enrolment regime.

Funnily, the only issue I raised that did not get debated afterwards was that of the pensions of MPs. I suggested they should move from defined benefit to defined contribution on the grounds that DC underpins auto-enrolment. Dame Anne and Mr McClymont were tight-lipped on this particular issue. I wonder why?

Jeff Prestridge is personal finance editor of the Mail on Sunday