Here's Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith's latest Argus column:

EVER since news of the scandal first emerged, I have been fighting for justice for those steelworkers and ex-steelworkers who were ruthlessly targeted by pension sharks in late 2017.

People in Blaenau Gwent, across south Wales and other traditional steel-working areas were aggressively targeted by rogue financial advisers.

Taking advantage of the restructuring of the British Steel pension fund, they talked people into moving their hard-earned pension pots into questionable investments.


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Last week in Parliament I spoke to call for new laws which would allow criminal charges to be brought against these people. Being removed from the register and suffering financial penalties is not enough.

While punishing these advisers would go some way to deterring bad behaviour there is a broader issue which needs addressing, and that is the sheer lack of help and dependable advice available to pensioners.

Reform is needed.

The amount of compensation paid out for poor pension transfer advice doubled from £20 million in 2016 to more than £40 million by 2018.

I spoke to the BBC recently about a factory worker from Ebbw Vale who lost his £30,000 life savings after being talked into investing in self-storage pods by sales advisers.

I understand that Self-Invested Personal Pension schemes such as this were the subject of more than 150 complaints to the Financial Ombudsman between April and December last year.

A lack of clarity around the world of pensions creates an environment where people can be talked into making poor financial decisions and into putting their money into high-risk investments.

While the pensions freedoms brought in by the former chancellor George Osborne in 2015 allowed pensioners more opportunities to transfer money out of their defined benefit pension scheme, the government failed to provide the necessary support.

In fact, people who had suspicions they were being fleeced were expected to take up their concerns with the very advisers they suspected of trying to fleece them.

The government and the key regulators must do better.

Information has to be consumer-friendly and readily available.

Pension freedoms need to be backed up by proper regulatory safeguards, and regulators need to act decisively against rogue advisors.

Rogue financial advice will always be a risk but with some common sense changes to regulation, pensioners can feel safer and better protected in navigating this complex financial world.