Govt stakeholder pensions attacked

Simmons & Simmons and Hammond Suddards have added their voices to the chorus of criticism of the Government's proposals for “stakeholder pensions”.

Social security minister John Denham last month issued a consultative document setting out its aim to create “stakeholder pensions” to provide pensions for people without good occupational pension schemes.

In a paper responding to the scheme, Simmons' pension department states: “The consultative document does not take the debate much further forward and has been attacked by the opposition as 'playing for time'. It contains no hard proposals for the Stakeholder Pension and sets up… conflicting aims.”

The paper, written by pensions partner Charles Scanlan, says that it will be difficult for the Government to keep charges down for stakeholder pensions if it also wants them heavily regulated and easily transferable.

“The objective of simplicity seems inconsistent with the creation of yet another type of pension”, says the paper. It says the Government could have suggested “a more suitable charging structure for personal pension schemes” such as a single premium.

The response of Jane Marshall, Hammond Suddards' head of pensions, agreed that the industry was “in danger of becoming over-regulated”. She said: “Employers who wish to make membership of occupational schemes compulsory, should be allowed to do so.” The Government has yet to say what it thinks about compulsion, but says it will respond “in due course”.

The country's largest pension scheme administrator, Hartshead Solway, goes further – it wants all adult workers to be compelled to contribute 5 per cent of earnings to a pension scheme.

The Association of Consulting Actuaries has called for a relaxing of regulations in the Financial Services Act and a simplification of personal pensions.