I would like to take the opportunity to wish my noble friend a very happy birthday. To answer her question, resolving these errors is a priority for the department. We are committed to doing so as quickly as possible. We have started by reviewing cases where the individual is alive; in doing so, we are initially focusing available resources on older cases and on those people whom we believe are most likely to be vulnerable.
My Lords, in her response, the Minister indicated that various steps had been taken by the department to put things right. That was welcome, except that the Public Accounts Committee made a series of very specific recommendations to the department in its very damning report. Can the Minister tell us exactly how much progress has been made specifically on those recommendations? If enough progress has not been made, will she ensure that she reports to the House on just how much the department is monitoring them?
The department is considering the content of the report, including the recommendations. As is the case for reports such as this, the Government will provide their response to the House in due course through the publication of a formal Treasury minute. Until then, it is not appropriate for me to comment any further on the report, but I am prepared to make a commitment that, when such a decision is made and the response is ready, I will make sure that all noble Lords are appraised of it.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Police Foundation and The People’s Pension Protecting People’s Pensions: Understanding and Preventing Scams, published on 7 September, what action they are taking to protect people from pension scams.
The Government are committed to safeguarding consumer savings. We have introduced measures that assist all pension savers to understand their choices and alert them to possible risks through advice and guidance. To help protect people from scams, the Government have banned cold calling and tightened the tax registration procedures, and, via the Pension Schemes Bill, are limiting the statutory right to transfer. We also continue to raise awareness of scams through ongoing communications directly from the DWP and through other organisations.
That reply was encouraging—I thank the Minister. However, I hope that we can persuade the Government of how vital it is that even more specific actions are taken. Tragically, some scams make the victim complicit in the crime, so they lose all their money to the scammer and are pursued by HMRC for tax payments for pension liberation which they cannot meet. The police described HMRC’s approach as “unrelenting and uncompromising”. What action will the Government take to give some relief to these victims?
I am sure that everybody feels sympathy for an individual placed in this position. HMRC collects the taxes that Parliament decides are due and seeks to treat each case sympathetically and on its own facts. I have talked to the Minister for Pensions about this issue and he is quite happy to meet the noble Baroness to talk further about it.