Pensions expert Ros Altmann, appointed by David Cameron, leaves Government


A leading pensions expert has quit the Government with a broadside against its policy record on the issue.

Ros Altmann was made a peer and appointed minister for pensions by David Cameron in 2015 after a career fighting for older people's rights.

She was one of a number of departures from Government on the third day of Theresa May's premiership, alongside Anna Soubry, who lost her job as business minister.

Meanwhile, Brexit-backing Penny Mordaunt was moved from the Ministry of Defence to become a Minister of State for Work and Pensions, with her previous role going to Mike Penning, formerly at the Home Office.

In a resignation letter to Mrs May, Baroness Altmann said that her efforts to improve pensions policy over the past year had been thwarted by "short-term political considerations".

Lady Altmann told the new PM: "As a minister, I have tried to drive positive long-term changes on pensions from within Government and ameliorate some of the past mistakes which I have cautioned against. 

"Unfortunately over the past year, short-term political considerations, exacerbated by the EU referendum, have inhibited good policy-making. As the country heads into uncharted waters, I would urge you and your new team to enable my successor to address some of the major policy reforms that are needed to improve pensions for the future."

Lady Altmann called for more help for women forced to work longer by the Government's decision to raise their retirement age.

"I am not convinced the Government adequately addressed the hardship facing women who have had their state pension age increased at relatively short notice," she said. "They were not adequately informed."

And she said that to tackle the "crisis" in social care funding, the Government should develop a "one nation" lifetime pension.

The current "ineffective and complex" system for encouraging people to save for their retirement through tax breaks "disproportionately" favours the wealthy and leaves lower earners "seriously disadvantaged", she said.

"We need a radical overhaul of incentives, which can offer more generous help than basic rate tax relief, but as a straightforward Government pension contribution for all, and would end the discrimination against Britain's lowest earners who are forced to pay at least 20% more for their pension than higher paid workers," said Lady Altmann.

The peer also called for withdrawals from pension pots - encouraged by changes introduced by former Chancellor George Osborne - to be taxed to avoid perverse incentives to "spend the money too soon".

And she called for support for employers to maintain defined benefit pension schemes.