The Law Debenture Debate 2016

04 May 2016

‘This House believes the present pensions system is unfair to the younger generation and that this is damaging to our society’

The invited audience at the Law Debenture annual debate agreed that ‘the present pensions system is unfair to the younger generation and that this is damaging to our society’.

Following a lively debate, the audience voted 58% to 42% in favour of the motion.  Comparison with the indicative vote taken at the outset – with the outcome kept secret until the final vote was taken – demonstrated the effectiveness of the arguments advanced.  The indicative vote showed that the House voted 69% to 31% in favour of the motion.  So, whilst not enough to change the outcome, the audience was clearly open to persuasion.

With Ian Pittaway in the chair, the Debate was opened by David, Lord Willetts arguing in favour of the motion.  He expressed the view that the present pensions system is an exemplar of the inter-generational unfairness that exists more generally and one which highlights the societal damage caused when the issues that hold it together are weakened.

Paul Spencer led the opposition to the motion by highlighting the changes in society generally and arguing that the current pensions system – with the freedom and flexibility it offers – is tailored to meet the aspirations of the younger generation.  Far from feeling deprived by the changes, he submitted that the millennials welcome the increased flexibility which allows them to tailor their lifetime savings to their circumstances.

David and Paul were supported in turn by Helen Prior and Jane Higgins – both millennials and both adding extra weight to the arguments already made.

When summing up the Debate, and the contributions from the floor, Ian Pittaway commented on the areas of agreement – the need for a degree of change as society changed, the impact of changing tax regimes and the importance of financial education.

Commenting upon the Debate and its outcome, Mark Ashworth, Chairman of LawDeb Pension Trustees, thanked those involved for making the evening such a success.  He stressed how the votes taken before and after the Debate reflected well on the debaters, the chair and those of the audience who raised questions and made comments.  After the event he said;

the standing of our annual Debate has increased over the eleven years it has taken place.  We remain enormously grateful to all those who contribute.  We recognise that the success is due not only to Law Debenture but also to those who support us

Tom Dines of Pensions Expert comments further.


  • The Debate was chaired by Ian Pittaway, Senior Partner, Sacker & Partners
  • Speaking for the motion were The Rt. Hon, the Lord Willetts and Helen Prior of Cardano
  • Speaking against the motion were Paul Spencer CBE, Chairman, BT Pension Scheme and Jane Higgins partner at Allen & Overy LLP
  • The views expressed by the debaters are, of course, not necessarily their own

Please click on the thumbnails below to view a larger version of photos from the debate.

Standing from left to right: Ian Pittaway, Mark Ashworth, Paul Spencer,Helen Prior, Jane Higgins and David, Lord Willetts
Mark Ashworth Chair, LawDeb Pension Trustees
The audience
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