Finance Ministers join MP exodus as Boris Johnson resigns

June 8, 2022

Update: Guy Opperman was reappointed as Pensions Minister on June 8, shortly after the publication of this article. In a statement on Twitter, Opperman said he had “agreed to help the Department for Work and Pensions navigate the next few weeks, while we decide the appointment of a new Prime Minister”.

The Pensions and City ministers are among the many MPs resigning in protest over Boris Johnson’s refusal to step down

Guy Opperman, the longest-serving minister for pensions resigned yesterday shortly before Boris Johnson announced his own resignation. Opperman made his motive clear on Twitter, stating it “has been an honour, and a great responsibility to serve as a minister but we need leadership change, and I have resigned.”

Opperman was not alone, with former City minister John Glen standing down shortly before. The two have joined dozens of ministers throughout the British government who began resigning in protest of Boris Johnson’s refusal to step down following the latest in a series of scandals to rock no. 10.

As minister for the City, Glen had been working on important post-Brexit changes to the regulatory framework, bringing the UK financial system out of the jurisdiction of EU regulation. Glen resigned before a new bill finalising these important changes could be passed, stating “I can no longer reconcile my commitment to the role and to the financial services sector with the complete lack of confidence I have in your continuing leadership of our country.”

During his term as minister, Opperman oversaw substantial progress on pension dashboards, put in place the legal framework for collectively defined contribution schemes, and led the UK to become the first country to enforce mandatory Taskforce on CLimate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) rules compliance in the pensions sector. His resignation brings many of these key areas of progress into question.

Opperman targeted issues with pension scheme voting systems, establishing the Taskforce for Pension Scheme Voting Implementation (TPSVI). Minerva CEO Sarah Wilson served as Vice-Chair of the TPSVI, providing recommendations which led to more responsible investment by pension funds.

One important innovation that Wilson saw to fruition during her time at the TPSVI is the new rule concerning an ‘expression of wish‘ by asset owners. This new rule allowed pooled funds to directly express to their asset managers how they wish their votes to be exercised on their behalf, regardless of how they invest.

At the time, Opperman was quoted as saying, “I see no reason why trustees shouldn’t be able to determine their own high-level policies – on areas such as climate risk management, diversity, or pay – and find an asset manager to implement it.”

Reacting to his resignation, Wilson congratulates Opperman on his time at the DWP. “Under Guy’s stewardship, the DWP has been at the forefront of world-leading ESG and climate change initiatives to support long-term investment success for savers. His support for the expression of wish is a lasting legacy for investors and has helped cement the UK’s thought leadership position in responsible investment,” she said.

Under the mounting pressure of ministerial resignations added to by Opperman and Glen, Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced his intention to leave office. The exodus of Glen and Opperman casts doubt over the UK financial sector as a whole, with important matters likely to be put on hold as the government is reformed.

Last Updated: 8 July 2022