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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

New pensions minister’s first debate

The new minister for pensions, Steve Webb MP, made his first public appearance speaking at a debate in Staple Inn. The minister was taking part in a debate organised jointly by the International Longevity Centre-UK and the Actuarial Profession entitled ‘Pensions reform after the election: how the consensus can be maintained’.

The debate, which featured a number of eminent speakers, including Baroness Patricia Hollis, a former parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Work and Pensions, examined the future of pensions provision in Britain, both private and state, and considered how the challenge of providing for future generations could be met.

The minister spoke of the challenges facing pensions provision in the UK and, while there were no new policy announcements, he made a number of pledges which met with approval from the audience. Recognising the need for an holistic view of pensions, he said: “At the start of a new government, the time is right to look at the big picture. Pensions policy has suffered from the curse of incrementalism. In the past, coherent systems have been tinkered with to the extent that they no longer function properly.” He continued: “The state pension must be the foundation on which all other pensions policy is based and we will help ensure this by restoring the link between pensions and earnings.”

Charles Cowling, chair of the Actuarial Profession’s pension committee and co-chair of the debate said afterwards: “It is heartening to hear a pensions minister look to the long term. Commitments towards simplification and giving people greater choice, including scrapping the mandatory retirement age, are welcome. The time for a frank and open debate on pensions is now. It cannot wait any longer. And the Actuarial Profession will play its part in ensuring that this debate is informed with fact and shapes a sustainable and fair pensions system.”

Baroness Sally Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre- UK and the other co-chair of the debate added: “A whole new approach is needed if we are to deliver a future pension regime which is fair, sustainable and helps tackle pensioner poverty. It was clear from the debate that there is significant consensus on the objectives of future pensions reform. Pension reform is too important to become a political football.”

The debate was part of a series of joint seminars organised by the International Longevity Centre-UK and the Actuarial Profession. The next debate is on 3 November 2010, again at Staple Inn, and is entitled: ‘The economics of preventative health’. It will look at a number of questions including:
>> Does an ageing society make preventative healthcare a necessity?
>> How can the economic benefit of health prevention best be assessed?
>> How can preventative healthcare support continued employment and well-being in the over 50s?

[Left to right below” Noreen Siba (ILC-UK), Charles Cowling (Actuarial Profession), Baroness Sally Greengross(ILC-UK), Steve Webb MP (Minister for Pensions), Caroline Instance (Actuarial Profession)