New pensions minister to take on expanded role

Hexham MP Guy Opperman will be the new pensions minister, the Government has announced.

Opperman takes over the brief from Watford MP Richard Harrington, who has been moved to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as part of the Conservative Party’s reshuffle.

However, Opperman’s brief has been expanded to also include financial inclusion. The Government’s website entry still says that exactly what this entails will be confirmed “in due course”.

Widening the pensions minister remit stands in contrast to criticisms made by Ros Altmann, Harrington’s predecessor, that the Government had “downgraded” the pensions minister brief.

Harrington was given the official title of ‘parliamentary under-secretary of state for pensions’, which is seen as lower ranking than minister of state or secretary of state.

A number of industry representatives have called for a savings minister role to be set up that would sit across Government departments, but this has not been introduced as yet.

Opperman was a barrister for 20 years before he was elected an MP in 2010. He served as a government whip and private parliamentary secretary to then immigration minister Mark Harper.

Aegon head of pensions Kate Smith says: “The last thing pensions needs is a return to a revolving door policy for Pensions Minsters. Sir Steve Webb broke the mould with a five year tenure, allowing him to get to grips with the brief and deliver policies, specifically auto-enrolment. Amidst all the uncertainty, pensions need a period of stability to give savers confidence in the pension system. Hopefully Opperman will retain his role long enough to bring stability while making a difference.”