Harrington new pensions ‘minister’, Mordaunt on disability

DWP-Department-for-work-and-pensions-500x320.jpgRichard Harrington has been appointed as a replacement for pensions minister Ros Altmann in a newly created role of parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt has been appointed minister of state at the DWP on the disability and workplace health brief, and not as pension minister as earlier reported.

Harrington, who is the MP for Watford, is a former hotelier and property developer and became vice-chairman of the Conservative Party in 2012.

While the DWP says he will be known as the pensions minister, he does not hold the title of minister of state held by Altmann and her predecessor Steve Webb.

Altmann has warned that the move appears to downgrade the role of pensions minister.

A DWP spokesperson says: “Pensions remain a key priority for the Government and the important work to bring in the new state pension, roll-out automatic enrolment and safeguard the pension freedoms will continue under our new minister for pensions.”

Royal London director of policy Steve Webb says: “The decision by the DWP to make the role of pensions minister a junior ministerial post is a shock. The DWP are responsible for overseeing the automatic enrolment of ten million workers into workplace pensions, for policy on the multi-billion pound deficits in company pension funds, for making sure that the new ‘pension freedoms’ work effectively and many other pension issues which affect the lives of millions of today’s workers and retired people. These issues should be a central concern for the department going forward. The seniority of ministers really does matter, not least in dealings with other government departments such as the Treasury. The DWP has lost a powerful voice in fighting the corner of workplace pensions with the resignation of Ros Altmann. This new decision is a demotion for pensions and sends a worrying signal to all who are concerned about the long-term financial health of the nation”.