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.”