Time to entrench cross-party working on this long-term issueby Ryan Shorthouse and Andrew Harrop / January 18, 2020 / Leave a comment
Boris Johnson has a convincing electoral mandate. He can govern as he pleases without accounting for the views of his opponents—and on many issues he will do just that. But there are some questions where the new Conservative government should work on a cross-party basis even though it does not need to.
We believe that pensions policy is one of these. We lead two think tanks, on the left and right of politics, and following a joint programme of research we have reached the firm conclusion that, in this area, decisions should not be dominated by partisan politics and instead politicians should come together.
There is a very clear reason for this. The decisions politicians make about pensions are long-term. They sometimes take decades to implement and their consequences can last a whole lifetime as people pay in to and then draw from their pots. A direction of travel therefore needs to endure for more than one electoral cycle. Although the outcome of the latest general election has transformed politics, we passionately believe that a cross-party approach to policymaking is likely to lead to difficult but desirable reforms in the long term.
In our joint research on pensions policy, supported by The People’s Pension, we have established that much more unites than divides politicians from the different parties, as well as the interest groups which normally face off against each other. For example, everyone we spoke to believed that workers should save more for retirement automatically, unless they opt out, so that the power of inertia can deliver all of us a decent pension.
In Framing the Future we call for the government to establish a new Pensions Commission to entrench and institutionalise a consensus-based approach. Our research found very broad support for establishing this commission. Both the pensions minister Guy Opperman and the shadow pensions minister Jack Dromey are strong supporters. And early in a parliament is the right time to act: there is sufficient backing to launch a pensions commission in 2020.
Our plan is for this to be initially modelled on the Turner Commission on pensions that met between 2003 and 2005. It was a time-limited review which set a fresh course for pensions policy by developing a new evidence base and…