Spotlight on Gregg McClymont
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Over the past year, Gregg McClymont has made his mark as Labour’s pensions spokesman. The ex-Oxford history don self deprecatingly confesses that he didn’t have much grasp of the subject when he was first handed the brief in late 2011. However by mid-2012, the MP for Cumbernauld had begun to make waves in the broader workplace pension debate. He was behind the opposition’s policy paper for the opposition on workplace pensions, published in July, which accused providers of extortionate charges and recommended scrapping restrictions on Nest (National Endowment Savings Trust). With his opposite number in government Steve Webb eager not to be outbid on the issue, McClymont’s intervention helped to keep charges at the top of the pensions policy debate.
“Getting auto enrolment right is the priority and the whole costs and charges debate has emerged from that. Pressure can work. Labour and independent organisations have built up pressure, saying the way things have been done in terms of transparency won’t cut it as we move into semi-compulsion.
The government has to be careful not to think that the job is done on auto-enrolment, the job’s not done, it’s only begun. The government’s focus needs to be on auto-enrolment and ensuring that by the time that it comes to auto-enrolment for small schemes, they (employees) are all being enrolled in high quality, low cost schemes.
In an economy where every penny matters and money is tight, squeezing out value for money is crucial. The government is fond of saying that charges are coming down, but the big employers who have enrolled have got the muscle to negotiate good deals and are doing so. The race is on to ensure that by the time the small employers come on, there is greater transparency.
I can‘t see any convincing reasons why these restrictions (on Nest) should continue. I have produced legal opinion which shows that there is no impediment in going to Brussels to lift these. This is very important because everybody should have access to that high quality, low cost player and Nest has already played a role in that prices are already coming down.
The (reinvigorating workplace pensions) white paper is a plan for having a plan: it seems a long way from action. Beyond stating that there’s a desire to get the best bits of DB and DC and put them together, the government don’t seem to be a long way forward on.