The introduction of a ‘flat, simple state pension’ announced in the Budget on Wednesday was the first phase of a plan to ‘reinvigorate occupational pensions provision’, he said, speaking at the Pensions Management Institute’s spring conference yesterday.
This would also involve the gradual removal of ‘baffling’ State Second Pension calculations and the ‘lingering’ contracting-out legacy. Auto-enrolment would then help the 10 million people currently without pension provision achieve retirement benefits above the basic minimum, he said.
Mr Webb also highlighted the risk-sharing options which could make retirement savings more attractive. ‘Whilst the decline in defined benefit membership cannot be simply reversed, does the industry have to swing all the way to pure defined contribution?’ he asked.
In particular he highlighted alternatives such as cash balance schemes, capped DB schemes and ‘DC plus’ arrangements. The latter involves the employer bearing some investment or inflationary risk on behalf of the scheme member.
Mr Webb also said he would be researching models found in European countries such as The Netherland and Denmark, to see if they can be applied in the UK. He said his intention was not to ‘create a regime of legislation that states what employers must do, but one that provides guidance for employers to take up an option that suits them - with certain guidelines’.
He explained that, with member encouragement a key focus, ‘the system should not be so rigid that employers are unable to provide some level of certainty about the kind of benefits their members could expect to receive’.
PMI chief executive Vince Linnane welcomed Mr Webb’s commitment to bring further stability and certainty to the UK pension market.
‘We focused this conference on the issues that the PMI sees on a daily basis ahead of a big year for the industry, so it is encouraging to have these statements from the Government supporting positive reform and simplification for the benefits of existing members and those wanting to begin their own retirement savings,’ he added.