Nick Smith

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Nick Smith MP has used the Budget debate to call on the Government to protect South Wales steelworkers from a “feeding frenzy” that could destroy their pensions.

More than 130,000 current and former steelworkers are facing a December deadline to decide what to do with their British Steel pensions.

With a huge demand for guidance from the workforce, it has raised concerns that steelworkers at Port Talbot’s Tata plant are vulnerable to being targeted by unscrupulous pension transfer advisers.

There are fears that workers are being mis-sold risky pension investments – complete with massive admin fees – that could decimate their funds for the years ahead.

With many workers and former workers at the site from Blaenau Gwent, Mr Smith called for immediate action in Parliament from the Government to “avoid potential disaster for many”.

“It would be heartbreaking if, facing the pressure to make a decision, workers were pressed into a life-altering decision that destroyed their futures,” he said.

“Futures where they wanted to enjoy the fruits of their labour, or need help with the costs of care.”

Mr Smith has asked for the Government to assess the situation at Port Talbot to see if any action should be taken, and also to consider extending the December deadline to ease the pressure on the decision for workers.

Immediately after his speech, it was announced that The Pensions Advisory Service would be opening a hotline providing impartial guidance for British Steel Pension members.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Smith said the Government had a duty of care after introducing laws in 2015 that allow people freedom to access their pension funds after 55.

“There will be workers all over Gwent who are faced with probably the biggest decision for the rest of their lives”, he said.

“This pension pot is not only important to enjoy retirement, but also to protect against the costs of care. They have been paying in for decades, contributing to our industry and economy with their sweat and toil, and they deserve support and protection at this important juncture.”

As part of the restructuring deal cut in August to help keep the steelmaker afloat, members of the £15bn British Steel pension fund have been given the option to shift their pensions to the Pension Protection Fund or a new retirement scheme backed by Tata.

But for those members who have yet to claim their pension, they are also able to transfer their pensions into personal investments.

Since April, the British Steel pension fund trustees have been asked for around 11,000 quotes for pension transfers, with an estimated 1,700 members then transferring their benefits.

If you are a British Steel Pension member and want guidance on your pension options, call 0207 932 9522

Nick’s budget speech can be seen at http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/d9ac6d17-0222-4489-99c7-862d43f1c20b.

For a full copy of the text, visit https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-11-23a.1213.0&s=pension+speaker%3A24728#g1245.0

South Wales Steelworkers must be protected from "Feeding Frenzy"

Nick Smith MP has used the Budget debate to call on the Government to protect South Wales steelworkers from a “feeding frenzy” that could destroy their pensions.

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Nick Smith MP has called on the Government to not water down their commitment to tackle the “crack cocaine” of betting machines. 

People in Blaenau Gwent lost nearly £1.5m in Fixed Odds Betting Terminals last year at up to £100 at a time.

With nearly £10m lost to FOBTs between 2008 and 2016 in the borough, it prompted Mr Smith to join Labour colleagues in condemning the machines.

Now the Government has admitted they need to cut the maximum stake allowed per bet to “reduce the potential for large session losses and therefore to the potentially harmful impact on the player and their wider communities”.

A 12 week consultation will also consider whether the time between bets must be lengthened – it currently sits at 20 seconds.

However, the Government’s review into the sector did not go so far as to commit to reducing the stake to £2 as called for campaigners.

Instead, it is considering a minimum stake that could still be as high as £50 a time.

Speaking after the announcement, Mr Smith said the Government must follow through now they have committed to a stake reduction.

“A report from the Gambling Commission earlier this year found 43% of people who use FOBTs are problem or at-risk gamblers”, he said.

“We can’t allow arguments of ‘people can do what they like with their money’ to creep in at this crucial juncture.

“That’s the danger of a gambling addiction – it means people bet more than they want and more than they can afford.

“The £2 stake would be a strong move to protect gamblers and families. The Government must not put their head in the sand and pretend a £50 stake would do the job.”

FOBT stake limits must be strengthened

Nick Smith MP has called on the Government to not water down their commitment to tackle the “crack cocaine” of betting machines. 

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Nick Smith MP has welcomed the news that BrightHouse has been told to pay £14.8m back to customers – and is calling for further crackdowns on the industry.

The Blaenau Gwent MP has been campaigning for months for more regulation in the rent-to-own sector, including calling for a cap to be considered on sky-high interest rates.

The Financial Conducts Authority has told BrightHouse they will have to compensate 249,000 customers who cancelled agreements after one down payment with no refund.

They will also have to make payments to those who signed up to lending agreements that they may not have been able to afford.

Mr Smith, who has been pursuing the issue of high-cost credit in Parliament, said this was welcome news for customers who weren’t given a fair deal.

“This is about families struggling to get by facing no other option than eye-watering markups under the guise of small weekly payments”, he said.

“When companies like BrightHouse can set up shop in places like Ebbw Vale and sell a £280 cot for £780, that just isn’t right.

“This verdict pokes a hole in the myth that families know they are committing to something that’s fair and affordable.

“I hope the FCA now follow up this verdict with more action to regulate the sector and make it a valuable but responsible one.”

Mr Smith is also currently asking the FCA to look at how goods are advertised in shops such as BrightHouse.

Goods are regularly displayed with large headline figures of small weekly payments, accompanied by a separate smaller wall of text for the true cost.

“With manufacturers’ codes changing from business to business, it can be difficult enough to see if you’re getting a good deal,” he said.

“We need to honestly ask ourselves if having real costs in the fine print and the most flattering figure as the star attraction gives customers a fair chance to consider what they are doing before they commit.”

A welcome bill for BrightHouse

Nick Smith MP has welcomed the news that BrightHouse has been told to pay £14.8m back to customers – and is calling for further crackdowns on the industry.


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