Opperman let go as pensions minister

Opperman let go as pensions minister
Guy Opperman, who has been let go as pensions minister

Longest serving pensions minister Guy Opperman has lost his role after being in the post for the past five years.

In a statement released today (September 20), Opperman said he had been relieved of his duties on September 8, but delayed the announcement to respect the period of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II.

“It has been the honour of my life to serve as a government minister for the last seven years,” he said, thanking his parliamentary and civil service colleagues for their support.

“The leadership contest is over, and the new team, and new PM, is entitled to choose their personnel to take matters forward.”

Opperman added that the new successor and government team will have his full support. 

Senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, Helen Morrissey, said Opperman brought much needed stability to the pensions brief after “something of a revolving door policy” at the DWP.

“He helped shepherd auto-enrolment through its first decade with enormous success -over 10m people have been brought into workplace pension saving,” she said.

“However, the pressure is on as to where auto-enrolment goes next and Opperman was under pressure to put forward a timetable for implementation of the 2017 Auto-enrolment Review.”

The DWP has also been under increasing pressure with widespread issues of people not receiving their state pension on time or being underpaid, she added. 

“Some underpayments run into many thousands of pounds and stretch over several years. 

“Whoever succeeds Opperman will be under pressure to fix these issues fast."

Technical director at independent consultancy Broadstone, David Brooks, said Opperman’s tenure was compromised by parliamentary time being “hoovered up” by Brexit and Covid related issues.

“Guy had some big issues to get moving to change the UK pensions landscape and his frustration came out towards the end with the glacial progress of a leviathan like industry. 

“ESG, ongoing digitisation and rise in professionalisation will be some of the big ticket items for his successor to take forward.”

Opperman had previously stepped down from the government in July amid a wave of resignations in protest at the conduct of then-prime minister Boris Johnson.

Opperman agreed to return as pensions minister a day later, until the new leader was elected.

His departure will leave a question mark over upcoming reforms in the sector, including regulations for the new DB funding code, auto-enrolment expansion, the single code of practice, and the Pensions Regulator’s notifiable events regime.

Opperman, the MP for Hexham, was appointed secretary of state at the department for work and pensions in June 2017, after previously serving as a government whip for the previous year.

His five years in the role has made him the longest serving pensions minister, followed by Sir Steve Webb who held the position between 2010 and 2015.

Prior to his career in politics, Opperman spent 20 years as a barrister after being called to the bar in 1989, and was director of his family’s engineering business until 2009.