Steve Webb: Pensions minister with the future of millions in his hands

webb 01In a profile in the FT, Pensions Minister Steve Webb is described as “one of the Coalition’s most hyperactive lieutenants”.

Now Steve is highly efficient and has achieved a huge amount since he took on the role four years ago, but he is also unflappable and “hyperactive” is not a term I would normally use about him. And whilst the term “lieutenant” usually refers to someone who is second in command, which is technically correct for a Junior Minister, no-one in Government beats his deep knowledge of his subject.

That cavil apart, the FT challenges Steve Webb about the potential risks in the reforms to the pensions regulations, which will allow savers in defined contribution schemes to cash in their pension pots from April 2015.

He says:

The day the chancellor stood up it was clear that we didn’t have a huge amount of time.

We know that. So we do a 12-week consultation and then people say to us, ‘We want a decision. Why haven’t you decided this? And why don’t you tell us where we stand?’ That’s because we are consulting.

We have to have capacity in place on April 6 [2015] but that won’t be the end of the story. It will evolve and we’ll learn new things. We’ll try a new model. This is a process.

One focus of concern is the level of face-to-face guidance that will be promised to pensioners. Steve concedes that ‘face to face’ does not necessarily have to be ‘one to one’ and that group conversations could also play a role where people have common questions.

Later in the interview Steve says:

You won’t be surprised to learn I’m a great fan of the triple lock and I’m delighted that the prime minister said that he thinks it should go on into the next parliament.

He says he is pushing for a flat-rate tax relief on pensions contributions of 30 per cent.

Finally he comments on his proposals for collective pension plans which were flagged in the Queen’s Speech. So far no employers have expressed an interest in adopting them, but he thinks they will come on board once they have examined the details.  Savers in ‘gold plated final salary schemes’ will probably be the first to be switched into the new schemes.

Note that although FT lies behind a paywall, you can either sign up for 8 free articles per month, or answer some marketing questions to gain access. You can read the full article here.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames and is a member of Federal Conference Committee.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Stuart Mitchell 24th Jun '14 - 8:37pm

    Why do Lib Dems keep telling us how generous the “triple lock” is, when in fact the switch to CPI means that last year’s triple-locked increase was actually less than it would have been if the government had retained Labour’s RPI-linked increase?

    It’s hard to think of any other policy that has been so blatantly mis-sold as an act of generosity while making people worse off.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Jun '14 - 2:12am

    Hi Stuart, the RPI used to overstate inflation because it used the “arithmetic mean”, rather than the “geometric mean”. This is a problem because if prices go up by 5% one year and then down by 5% the next the arithmetic mean would show an average rate of inflation of 0% over two years, whereas in fact there has actually been a bit of deflation because 5% of the amount in year two is bigger than the amount in year one!

    Having said that, I have my criticisms of CPI and in the way the pension reforms were announced, but the move from RPI to CPI wasn’t simply a way to sneakily save a bit of money!


  • Eddie Sammon 25th Jun '14 - 2:53am

    Hmm, my explanation is a bit simplistic, but I had to calculate inflation once and a CPI-esque method made more sense given the data I received – you can’t just add up all the increases and divide by the number of periods because of compound interest. I’m not sure what data they are receiving.


  • @Eddie
    Thanks for that, it’s very interesting. The government certainly thinks it can save money by using CPI rather than RPI though. In its first budget in June 2010, it estimated that changing the upgrading measure for benefits to CPI would save around £5bn pa by this year, with the figure going up each year thereafter.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAndy Hinton 24th Aug - 5:51pm
    Paul Barker is right; the true argument for HS2 is nothing to do with journey times or "bridging the north-south divide", it is about freeing...
  • User AvatarTom Harney 24th Aug - 5:50pm
    As far as I can see from the links provided the plans for an alternative to HS2 are simply lines on a map. How about...
  • User AvatarTom Harney 24th Aug - 5:29pm
    The poll accurately reflects the current position in the country in my opinion. To translate it into votes at a General Election requires resources. There...
  • User AvatarPeter Wrigley 24th Aug - 5:27pm
    Our MPs are not delegates but representatives. Their duty is to use their judgement and vote for whatever they understand to be the long term...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 24th Aug - 5:26pm
    Typo in my last paragraph - it should read "to put the first A50 on hold in a “temporary” way" - Sorry
  • User AvatarNonconformistradical 24th Aug - 5:25pm
    @Joseph Bourke "the Japanese, like the British, were city dwellers and had a similar seasonal climate to the UK, if a little hotter during the...
Sat 24th Aug 2019
Thu 29th Aug 2019
Mon 9th Sep 2019