HC Deb 02 April 1990 vol 170 cc881-2
8. Mr. Hayes

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the latest estimate of the number of people who have taken out appropriate personal pensions.

Mr. Newton

Just over 3.6 million people have so far taken out appropriate personal pensions.

Mr. Hayes

I warmly welcome what my right hon. Friend says and accept that pensioners on the state pension had an increase of 27 per cent. in real terms between 1979 and 1987. But does my right hon. Friend aggreciate that not everyone regards the state pesion as a top-up and that, despite the Government's generosity and his Department's commitment, many people find it difficult to make ends meet? Will my right hon. Friend try in the next few months to bring forward some imaginative proposals to help people who are in serious difficulties?

Mr. Newton

I should make it clear to my hon. Friend that we regard the state basic retirement pension—the national insurance pension—not as a top-up but as the foundation of provision for retirement. That is why we have protected its value. The important point is that personal pensions and occupational pensions are a growing part of people's income in retirement, and we welcome that. We also acknowledge that not everybody has such pensions or savings. It is to that group that we directed an additional £200 million last October. I note my hon. Friend's proper ambition to see the process go further.

Mr. Flynn

Does the Secretary of State share the anxiety of the regulatory body, the Life Assurance and Unit Trust Regulatory Organisation, which has described the advertising of personal pensions as wildly inaccurate? Does he agree with the independent pension investment research consultant who estimated that at least 1 million people will end up with totally indequate pensions because they have opted to leave SERPS? As that deception of 1 million people has been the result of Government legislation, when will the Secretary of State announce his plan to inform those people that their only chance of a decent pension is to return to SERPS?

Mr. Newton

Obviously, I do not accept the basic thrust of the analysis implied in the hon. Gentleman's question. It was Government legislation, the Financial Services Act 1986, that set up LAUTRO—that is the Life Assurance and Unit Trust Regulatory Organisation—precisely to ensure that advertising of financial services of all types was proper and not misleading. That very fact shows our concern to ensure that people are properly advised.

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