Guy Opperman, the MP for Hexham, has been appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Pensions and Financial Inclusion at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), it’s been announced today.
He becomes the second minister responsible for pension’s policy in less than 12 months, replacing Richard Harrington who has moved to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. 12 different officials have now held the pensions minister role since 2000.
Mr Opperman's ministerial title would suggest an expansion of responsibilities from his predecessor, although at the time of writing the DWP is yet to confirm his specific responsibliities.
Mr Opperman, a former barrister, was first elected to the House of Commons in 2010, and served in the whip’s office prior to his new appointment.
He arrives at the DWP with a lot of work on his pension plate, including state pension rises, uncertainty around the triple lock, and the challenge mounted by the ‘WASPI’ campaign - an issue described by former pensions minister Ros Altmann as a “poisoned chalice”.
With the status of the government still in doubt - at the time of writing no deal had been announced between the Conservatives and the Northern Irish DUP - it remains to be seen what impact Mr Opperman can have on pensions policy alongside his new boss David Gauke, who is also new to the department.
Former pensions minister Steve Webb comments on the appointments: “It is unfortunate that we seem to have gone back to the old 'revolving door' of changing the pensions minister every year. This is a complex and technical subject area and it takes time to understand the issues. Constantly replacing the responsible minister makes it hard to get any consistency and continuity in policy.
“The one glimmer of hope is the appointment of David Gauke as Secretary of State. David Gauke was a Treasury minister working on pensions through the 2010-15 Parliament and will know a lot about the subject. His role is therefore likely to be more significant in determining the direction of pension policy.”
Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, adds: "While the election focus was on state pensions, there are many other pensions topics that need addressing. The new Pensions Minister will need to get up to speed quickly, with the number one priority being the review of automatic enrolment which is due to report by then end of the year.
"We also hope David Gauke’s and Guy Opperman’s move from the Treasury will encourage greater join up between DWP and Treasury on pensions taxation matters."