Friday, 24 November 2017

    Chaos reigns: who's in charge of pensions now?

    It’s all change at the Department for Work and Pensions, finds Jenna Gadhavi

    Between Brexit fears and the knowledge that a new Pensions Bill lurks just around the corner, it’s easy to see why the industry is crying out for a period of stability. And it’s safe to say that the DWP has never seen more change, particularly in its personnel department.

    damian green

    It’s hard to think of a worse time for a new pensions minister, let alone a wholesale restructure of the pensions powers that be. But that’s exactly what we’ve got.

    Crabb’s capitulation

    First to go was work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb. He resigned from his pensions post citing a wish to spend more time with his family. Although, the resignation came after damning allegations were made against him in The Times during his abortive campaign to stand for leadership of the conservative party.

    Damian Green, MP for Ashford, has been appointed as his replacement. This is the third change to this position this year alone, with Ian Duncan Smith resigning in March over cuts to disability benefits during David Cameron’s leadership.

    Green has been an MP since 1997. He became the shadow spokesperson for work and pensions in 1998 and since then has served in several ministerial positions. In 2010, Green became minister of state for immigration and between 2012 and 2014 he was minister of state for policing and criminal justice.

    Altmann’s abdication

    The second to go was Ros Altmann. She resigned her position as pensions minister saying: “I will have my life back and be able to speak freely at this dreadfully difficult time for our country.”

    Taking her place is Richard Harrington, the new under-secretary of state for pensions at the DWP.

    Harrington said: “I am delighted to take responsibility for this important ministerial post, and I look forward to tackling the full range of state and private pension matters, including the new bill and automatic enrolment, among so many others.”

    I will have my life back”

    It has been noted however that Harrington has not been appointed minister of state and pensions, as had been the case with his predecessor, but to a new more junior role.

    Commenting on the downgraded title, Harrington said: “The title is different, but you must remember the previous holder was member of the House of Lords, rather than an MP and before that we were in coalition, but the role is the same as before.”

    However many industry commentators are questioning whether Harrington will have sufficient clout to take on the Treasury in this new downgraded role.

    Labour’s leavers

    It’s not just the conservative party that is in turmoil. The opposition is also seeing a reshuffle among those responsible for pensions.

    Owen Smith, MP for Pontypridd, stepped down as shadow secretary for work and pensions following his decision to run for Labour Party leadership.

    He will be replaced by Debbie Abrahams MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth.

    It’s not just the conservative party that is in turmoil”

    Once a new Labour leader is chosen, we will also see a new shadow under-secretary for pensions to sit in the opposition version of the downgraded role. Angela Rayner, who held the position from January to June this year, has become shadow minister for women and equality after publically supporting Corbyn during the vote of no confidence that triggered the Labour leadership contest.

    This will be the fourth Labour pensions minister since the general election. Previous incumbents include Nick Thomas-Symonds and Lord Bradley.

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