Vital pensions reforms could be thrown into doubt following the resignation of Guy Opperman as pensions minister, some industry experts have warned.
Mr Opperman said on Thursday morning he resigned with great regret, telling Prime Minister Boris Johnson “recent events have shown clearly that the Government simply cannot function with you in charge”.
It later emerged Mr Johnson will quit as Conservative leader after ministers and MPs made it clear his position is untenable, remaining as Prime Minister until a successor is in place.
Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, said Mr Opperman’s resignation “leaves pensions in turmoil”.
She said: “He was personally leading a number of initiatives to improve pensions engagement, including the pension dashboard and the pension engagement season.”
Ms Smith added: “Initiatives to improve member engagement with their pensions were gathering momentum. These need to continue at pace to help improve understanding of pensions.
“Crucially, the minister’s resignation could also impact the next steps for auto-enrolment, including lowering the minimum age from 22 to 18 and basing minimum contributions from the first pound, as well as finding solutions for the self-employed.
“Only this week, the pensions minister recommitted to implementing these in the mid-2020s and suggested increasing the minimum contributions from 8% to 12% over time.”
Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at Quilter, said: “(Mr) Opperman has been keen to drive customer engagement and help people understand their pension and get value for money.”
Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said there have been widespread issues of people not receiving their state pension on time or being underpaid.
She said: “Some underpayments run into many thousands of pounds and stretch over several years – they have caused huge financial hardship to people. Whoever succeeds (Mr) Opperman will be under pressure to fix these issues fast.
“Auto-enrolment issues will also be near the top of any new pension minister’s in-tray. Over the last decade, we’ve seen 10 million people enrolled into a pension, but the next steps need to be put in place.”
Tim Gosling, head of pensions policy at B&CE, provider of the People’s Pension, said: “Mr Opperman’s departure from the role of minister for pensions and financial inclusion is a loss for the pensions sector.
“During his long tenure, he’s overseen a period of genuine change and progress for pensions. He leaves a strong legacy but also a full in-tray for his successor, including driving forward automatic enrolment and launching pensions dashboards.”