The Queen's Speech: Pension savers to be better protected

pension jar Image copyright Thinkstock

The cash of millions of pension savers will be better protected, under plans announced alongside the Queen's Speech.

Fears had been expressed that people who pay into some auto-enrolment pensions could lose their money, should their scheme collapse.

The Pensions Bill will provide for stricter supervision of so-called master trust schemes by the regulator.

In February, an investigation by the BBC found that dozens of master trusts were too small to survive.

Experts said up to a quarter of a million people were at risk of losing their savings.

The bill will give the Pensions Regulator (TPR) greater powers to authorise the schemes and step in where necessary.

Master trusts themselves will need to demonstrate that their schemes meet strict new criteria.

At the moment, only nine of 72 master trust schemes are listed on TPR's website as qualifying for their kitemark.

The regulator has no responsibility for checking that the schemes' claims are accurate.

MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee previously expressed concern about "potentially unstable master trusts" and called for swift government action.

Exit Fees

The Pensions Regulator itself welcomed the new bill.

"We have voiced concerns for some time about the need for stronger legislative standards for master trusts and have worked with government and other regulators to improve levels of protection for members," said Lesley Titcomb, TPR's chief executive.

"We have been calling for a significantly higher bar regarding authorisation and supervision, and we are pleased that today's announcement proposes to give us the power to implement these safeguards."

The bill will also help those who have been trying to withdraw money from their pension funds, but have been faced with early exit fees.

Data collected by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) suggests that as many as 700,000 people might be liable to pay such charges.

As previously announced, those fees will now be capped - although it is not known at what level.

A new guidance body will also be set up, to give help to people retiring, as well as those in debt.

It will bring together the Pensions Advisory Service, Pension Wise and the Money Advice Service.

"We will work closely with the sector in the coming months to further shape our plans," said pensions minister Ros Altmann.