Pension experts quiz absence of bill on chancellor’s investment reforms

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Jeremy Hunt’s plans to unlock £50bn of retirement fund investment have been left “in limbo” after the UK government did not include a pensions bill in the legislative agenda it presented on Tuesday, industry experts warned.

The UK chancellor has in recent months unveiled a raft of new measures to boost pensioner incomes as well as stimulate the economy, including a pact with nine big UK pension funds to invest more in private assets.

Hunt has said his so-called Mansion House reform package could channel £50bn of new pension investment in the UK by 2030 and increase pensioner incomes by more than £1,000 a year for the average earner.

But a pensions bill to push forward the Mansion House reforms was “noticeably absent” from the King’s Speech, said Helen Morrissey, head of retirement analysis at Hargreaves Lansdown, the investment managers.

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“Such a bill was expected to advance this summer’s Mansion House reforms,” she said.

Morrissey added the absence was “confusing” and meant that progress before the next general election would “effectively grind to a halt.”

One government official said a pensions bill was not included in the King’s Speech because of a lack of parliamentary time, but insisted that reforms could be carried out now by regulators working with the sector. They conceded that legislation was needed in the longer term.

The Treasury and Department of Work and Pensions did not immediately comment.

Hunt’s wide-ranging Mansion House initiative includes proposals to speed up the consolidation of pension funds and to boost pension investment in illiquid assets that can help UK businesses.

“No Pensions Bill means that many pension policies will remain in limbo,” said David Everett, head of pensions research with LCP, the consultants.

“A new government will then have a big to-do list and there will need to be new decisions made around which topics to press on with and which to jettison,” he added.

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But despite the absence of a bill, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, the industry body, said it was still expecting “significant action” by Hunt on pensions in his Autumn Statement later this month.

The PLSA said this included a greater role for the British Business Bank in providing investment opportunities specifically for pension funds.

In October, the Financial Times reported that the UK government was preparing to unveil a new investment vehicle overseen by the BBB and intended to boost pensions funds’ investments in high-growth private companies.