HC Deb 04 March 2002 vol 381 c19W
26. Richard Ottaway

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on changes in the level of provision of occupational pension schemes, with special reference to the guarantee of a pension based on final earnings. [36352]

Mr. McCartney

There has been a long-term decline since the 1960s in both the coverage and number of occupational schemes. Provision peaked in the 1960s. There is also a trend away from final salary schemes towards defined contribution arrangements, although by far the majority of scheme members remain in salary-related schemes. We welcome the fact that many employers voluntarily continue to provide pensions for their staff, whether it is through defined benefit provision or defined contribution provision.

The reasons for the long-term changes to occupational pension provision are complex. People are living longer. There has been a relative decline in the sectors that traditionally offer occupational pensions and an increase in self-employment. Lower expected stock market returns, ending of contribution holidays, and an increase in complexity of regulations imposed since the late 1980s have all contributed.

But the Government are acting. We are seeking better regulation through the simplification review; better products through the introduction of stakeholder pensions (with 637,000 individual sales within their first eight months) and the Sandler Review of personal investment products; and to reward saving through the Pension Credit.