HC Deb 15 September 2004 vol 424 cc1621-2W
Mr. Kidney

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of(a) the take-up of stakeholder pensions, (b) the number of employers who offer access to a stakeholder pension and (c) the proportion of employer-designated schemes that have no members; and if he will make a statement on the future development of stakeholder pensions. [188472]

Malcolm Wicks

Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that at 30 June 2004 2,042,864 stakeholder pensions had been sold since their introduction in April 2001. Official figures for the 2002–03 tax year confirm that 98 per cent. of sales have been to people in work and that the majority of stakeholder pensions are being bought by those on modest incomes; over three-quarters (860,000) of stakeholder pension plans with contributions in them in that year were for workers earning under £30,000 a year and around two-thirds (660,000) were for those workers earning under £20,000 a year. Stakeholder pensions are now an established product and provide an important route for people to save for their retirement.

In total just over 500,000 employers offer their employees access to a stakeholder pension scheme. Of those around 270,000 employers have designated a stakeholder pension scheme as required by law. The remainder do so voluntarily, for example as additional or optional pension provision where a company pension scheme is in place. Many more employees now have access to a good value pension arrangement through their place of work irrespective of their position in the company.

The Employers Pension Provision 2003 survey indicates that around three quarters of employer designated schemes have no members. Research shows that an employer contribution is the most important factor in encouraging pension take-up by employees. Where there is an employer contribution, average take-up by the workforce is around 70 per cent.; compared with 13 per cent. where there is no employer contribution. We will continue to work with employers so they are aware of the important role they play in helping their employees provide for their retirement. Through our Informed Choice Programme we have a range of measures to encourage work place savings. Our initiatives will make it easier for employers to promote good schemes in the workplace, will extend the issue of combined forecasts of State, personal and occupational pension showing projected entitlement and establish the best ways of ensuring that their employees are provided with a decent standard of pension information through the workplace.

From April 2005 the stakeholder pension will become part of the Sandler stakeholder suite of savings products. The new structure will enable providers to market stakeholder pensions more actively and it will also be possible for firms to provide advice to more people. It will continue to offer a good deal for the consumer. Stakeholder pensions are part of our wider plans to help people to save for a decent income in retirement. These include our Informed Choice Programme, The Employer Task Force and the Pension Commission, all of which will assist in increasing private pension access and provision.