Clause 27 — Requirement to wind up scheme in specified circumstances

Part of Nature – in the House of Commons am 1:00 pm ar 24 Chwefror 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 1:00, 24 Chwefror 2015

I shall respond briefly to the issues that the hon. Gentleman has raised. I am grateful to him for his comments, and I should like to extend my thanks to our noble Friends in another place for bringing the Bill forward on our behalf. I also share his respect for his colleagues, Baroness Drake and Baroness Hollis, for their knowledge and their contribution to the debates.

As the hon. Gentleman says, the issue of whether the affirmative or negative procedure is used in regard to regulations in clause 8 was debated at length. He pointed out that Baroness Drake wanted the affirmative procedure to be used in all cases, while the Government originally planned always to use the negative procedure. The Government then responded to the views of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and agreed that, on first use, the affirmative procedure would be used. Obviously we could say that everything should always be decided through the affirmative procedure, but there is a balance to be struck here. The Committee wanted that, but the Government do not consider that to be appropriate because we sometimes need the flexibility to act quickly if schemes are being inappropriately caught by the collective benefits definition.

There is always a trade-off in these circumstances. Sometimes in the world of pensions, things happen that we do not expect. People might be in the wrong place, for example, or their rights might be at risk or inappropriately protected, and the Government need to be able to move quickly rather than having to go through the rather lengthy parliamentary process that the affirmative procedure requires.

We accept, however, that clause 8 is a key provision and I can put on record that it is not our intention for members who are in schemes providing collective benefits, and subject to the provisions, suddenly to lose the important protection that the regulations made under part 2 of the Bill will provide. If the situation were to arise in which those protections were to be taken away, we would want to understand the situation and ensure that it was appropriate and necessary before taking action and laying regulations. As the hon. Gentleman said, even under the negative procedure there is scope for praying against the regulations if a particular concern should arise, and for a debate to take place.

Most of my experience has been from the Opposition Benches, and during the passage of primary legislation, the Opposition always seem desperate for everything to be conducted under the affirmative procedure while the Government want nothing, but many of the affirmative statutory instruments that the hon. Gentleman and I have dealt with, over the past however many years it has been, have been over in 10 minutes. We get very exercised about the need for affirmative scrutiny, but when we get to that scrutiny, it can occasionally border on the desultory. I hope that we are striking the right balance in recognising that these are important matters and providing affirmative protection on the first use and further parliamentary scrutiny on any subsequent use through the normal processes.

The hon. Gentleman raised certain wider issues, but I am not sure that it is appropriate for me to go into them in great detail now. I recognise that he wants to strengthen the fiduciary duties of those who oversee pension schemes, and I am sure that that debate will continue. I believe that the new independent governance committees will mark a big step forward from where we have been in the past, and that they will provide scrutiny. I have talked to most of the major insurance companies in the past few weeks, and they are setting up their IGCs now. It is clear that they will be organisations with teeth and with serious people heading them, and that they will be listened to. We will also continue to keep the situation under review. With that, I commend Lords amendment 1 to the House.

Lords amendment 1 agreed to.

Lords amendments 2 to 9 agreed to.