The Conservative government has been accused of breaking an election pledge by failing to extend the auto-enrolment pension policy to the self-employed.

Instead, ministers have said they will offer 'targeted interventions' to encourage retirement saving among the self-employed.

Other reforms to the programme will include lowering the minimum age that workers can be enrolled to the scheme from 22 to 18, bringing 900,000 more people into workplace pensions and adding £800 million of contributions, and scrapping the lower earnings limit of £5,824.

Although these changes are welcome, pension experts claim they fall short of the Tory manifesto pledge to the self-employed; a commitment that was repeated by pensions minister Guy Opperman at the Conservative Party Conference when he said there was ‘no doubt whatsoever’ the government would extend the policy to the self-employed.

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, the investment broker, said: ‘Most would regard the new pledge to simply encourage self-employed people to save in a pension, rather than them being auto-enrolled and having to opt out, as breaking this manifesto commitment.’

At the same time, Steve Webb, former Liberal Democrat pension minister in the 2010-15 coalition government and now director of policy at Royal London, a pension provider, said making auto-enrollment available for the self-employed was meaningless since you are either auto-enrolled or you're not.

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