As part of today’s pensions announcements package the government has confirmed their review of auto-enrolment.
As we feared the review is to be wide in scope, not just looking at the detail but opening up some fairly fundamental parts of the 2012 pensions settlement. Consumer groups have already written to ministers expressing our fears about that.
To be fair, it has been stressed to us that the review does not have a hidden agenda and could well report that nothing needs changing.
But all the work to date in taking forward the recommendations of the Turner Commission has been done by a genuine effort to build a wide consensus between employers, the pensions industry and consumer groups (including unions).
Yet one of these is missing from the three-person all-male review team – and that’s a consumer voice.
Much of the analysis of the budget and other policies of the new government has rightly concentrated on the effects on the poorest and most vulnerable.
This however is a policy area that impacts on those above the poorest on the income scale – those on low to middling incomes – what we tend to call the real middle Britain on Touchstone.
A big proportion of these will be women as they are more likely to work part-time, take career breaks and work in low-paying sectors of the economy. Just as with the minimum wage, more women than men will benefit from new minimum pension standards.
Yet while I have no wish to impugn any members of the review team – and David Yeandle from the EEF has played an enormously constructive role in the discussions about the new pensions framework – none of the review team have a background in thinking about the problems of low paid women workers.
This is a review the TUC will be taking very seriously indeed. Sometimes it is very easy to work out that official reviews are highly likely to come to a pre-ordained conclusion (and that is true under all governments). This we hope is genuinely open, and we will be doing what we can to defend – and even extend – the 2012 settlement.