Alex Burghart: New Pensions Minister replaces Guy Opperman, who was the longest serving incumbent after more than five years in the jobAlex B
Alex Burghart: New Pensions Minister replaces Guy Opperman, who was the longest serving incumbent after more than five years in the job
Alex Burghart is the new Pensions Minister, replacing Guy Opperman who had a five-year stint at the Department of Work and Pensions.
An MP for Brentwood and Ongar since 2017, Burghart was previously a member of the work and pensions select committee in parliament, and the Skills Minister at the Department for Education from September 2021 to July this year.
The son of two teachers and a former teacher himself, he became policy director at the Centre for Social Justice, and later a special adviser to Theresa May in Downing Street, before winning election in his Essex constituency.
Burghart arrives amid market turmoil as the Bank of England intervenes in the bond market to support final salary pension schemes, and many people with defined contribution pensions face major investment losses in the rout.
Among Burghart’s immediate priorities as Pensions Minister will be shoring up support for auto-enrolment among savers during a cost of living crisis, getting the pensions dashboard up and running, and deciding on future state pension age rises.
Burghart will also have to continue the massive state pension correction exercise affecting tens of thousands of elderly women, who were underpaid an estimated total of around £1.5billion in a scandal uncovered by former Pensions Minister Steve Webb and This is Money.
We and Webb, now our columnist and a partner at LCP, have recently highlighted fresh failures where some younger women who worked all their lives were wrongly refused a state pension, prompting calls for a full investigation of ‘zero’ or suspiciously low awards to women turning 66.
Opperman was ousted by the incoming Liz Truss government, and tweeted about his departure last month – see below.
Burghart enters the post at a worrying time, with Bank of England’s emergency bond buying scheme concluding within days, Patrick Bloomfield, partner at Hymans Robertson.
‘Further challenges await the new minister with the current cost of living crisis continuing to grow, but we believe there is an opportunity to make a strong and committed start to his role, through learning about how policy decisions impact the end user and listening to industry concerns about existing policies.
‘Pensions dashboard roll-out and defined benefit funding regulations need an urgent rethink so their introduction achieves the long-term policy goals without unintended short-term consequences.
‘We are also keen to hear his response on the Work and Pensions Committee’s recommendations on solving the gender pensions gap.’
Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, welcomed Burghart’s appointment and added: ‘He will have a lot on his plate and many issues vying for attention, including providing reassurance to savers in these current tumultuous times.
‘Top priorities for the new Minister include getting pension dashboards over the line, continued focus on raising pension awareness, introducing a plan to implement the recommendations of the 2017 review of auto-enrolment, finding pension solutions for the self-employed, progressing with the proposed Value of Money framework, and working across government and regulators to better support pension savers with retirement decision making.
‘It’s important the new Pensions Minister works closely with the Treasury on any review of pension tax allowances, specifically the lifetime allowance and money purchase annual allowance to enable and incentive pension savings.’