The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on November 22, 2023, included a long list of pensions announcements, although only the first three set out below have a firm starting date of April 6, 2024.

  • Commitment to the triple lock – the State Pension will be increased by 8.5 per cent.
  • Legislation to remove the LTA – the Autumn Finance Bill 2023 will include a measure to clarify the taxation of lump sums and lump sum death benefits, and the application of protections, as well as the tax treatment for overseas pensions, transitional arrangements, and reporting requirements.
  • The authorised surplus repayment charge will be reduced from 35 cent to 25 per cent.

Consultations, responses, calls for evidence or reviews were published on:

  • How the PPF can act as a consolidator for DB schemes and whether changes to rules on when surpluses can be repaid could incentivise investment by well-funded schemes in high-return assets. See the response on options for DB schemes.
  • Tackling the long-standing problem of “small pot” pensions via a lifetime provider model which would allow individuals to have contributions paid into their existing pension scheme when they change employer. Response to the previous consultation published and call for evidence on long-term direction of workplace pension saving closes January 24, 2024.
  • The master trusts market five years on, including market trends and the future of regulation and supervision.
  • In the DC Value for Money framework, the FCA will consult on rules for contract-based schemes in Spring 2024, aiming for consistency with the development of legislative requirements for trust-based schemes. In the meantime, the Regulator will strengthen its existing supervisory approach for trust-based schemes and implement a register of trustees as set out in its response to the previous call for evidence.
  • Providing for occupational pensions trustees to offer decumulation services and products at an appropriate quality and price when savers access their pension assets, either themselves or through a partnership arrangement. The CDC market will also be further explored for use as part of a long-term vision for pension saving in the UK. See the response here.
  • Establishing a new Growth Fund with the British Business Bank. The intention is to give pension schemes access to promising businesses via private capital.
  • Create new investment vehicles via the Long Term Investment for Technology and Science initiative, although this is subject to final agreement. The government will commit £250m to two successful bidders, to support science and technology businesses.

Comment

After years of initiatives around the edges of forcing consolidation of pension schemes, the Government has come up with two big policies which will have a major effect on the non-retail market. Firstly, employer-originated DC pension schemes which currently offload pension pots at retirement will have to go full service, providing all the retirement options themselves or partnering with a provider to do that. Secondly, members will be able to direct employer contributions to their own scheme, to keep their savings in one place. Only the retail master trust and GPP providers are likely to have the appetite for either proposal in the long term.

Although the Chancellor made repeated references to “pensions” in his speech, there is not a great deal here that is very concrete – and little that we haven’t seen flagged over the last few weeks. It is unlikely that all these initiatives, calls for evidence and consultations will see light of day before the next election.

However, the willingness to reconsider the rules around how DB scheme surpluses could be repaid, coupled with the reduction in the authorised repayment of surplus charge to 25 per cent seeks to incentivise schemes to achieve higher investment returns. This does expose a policy schism given the draft Funding and Investment Regulations in their current form, and the steady-state of a low-risk low dependency asset allocation they advocate.