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NAPF Conference: pensions minister warns if retirement savings situation doesn't improve, the Government will be forced to legislate further

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The pensions minister Steve Webb (pictured with NAPF chief executive Joanne Segars) has confirmed the auto-enrolment regulations will come into effect next year as planned, despite speculation SMEs will not be required to place staff in schemes.

Speaking yesterday evening at the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) Conference in Manchester, he said: “I regard myself as the optimist of the pensions world... but my patience is running out. I don’t want to read another bad news story on pensions. [Auto-enrolment] is going to happen next year. Big firms don’t want uncertainty – but we are paving the way for something better.

“Communicating this in simple consistent language is a challenge for all of us but we have to create a society based on savings and not debt and we need to get on with it.”

But he issued a warning: “The pensions industry needs to get its house in order – and if it can’t do this I’m prepared to legislate.”

Turning to the issue of charges on pensions, and the NAPF’s call for transparency around charges for employees, Webb added: “I’m worried about individuals losing money in charges because their employers put them in a scheme and I don’t want them to think I – and the Government – didn’t protect them.”

On auto-enrolment, speculation had been circulating during the week that the Government would exclude small businesses from having to place staff in a pension scheme, and Webb moved to set the record straight.

He said: “There is an argument that putting SMEs in auto-enrolment could be a barrier to growth – but we have considered this. That’s why we introduced a three month waiting period [before firms have to place staff in pension schemes]. I think it’s important to get small firms in.”