Clause 1 - Meaning of “Savings and Retirement Account (SaRA) schemes”

Part of Rights of Savers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 14 Rhagfyr 2005.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson (Also PPS To the Chairman of the Party), Work & Pensions & Welfare Reform 2:30, 14 Rhagfyr 2005

It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your wise chairmanship, Mr. Benton. I do not wish to detain the Committee long because I hope that, with a fair wind and co-operation on both sides, we can get through all the amendments today and see the Bill reported to the House. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), as I did on Second Reading, on his good fortune in coming high in the ballot for private Members’ Bills and on his sagacity in choosing this subject and putting together an important and thought-provoking Bill. It has my party’s full support, as he knows. Indeed, in the absence of any solution to the pensions crisis from the Government, it behoves the official Opposition to come up with the solutions, or some of them, to the ever-worsening situation.

Like my right hon. and learned Friend, I was struck by the honeyed words of the Minister on Second Reading, when he said:

“I welcome the opportunity today to pursue that debate and to help build towards a consensus.”—[Official Report, 28 October 2005; Vol. 438, c. 577.]

Consensus is the buzz word in pensions at the moment. Sadly, as we do not seem to have consensus within the Government, it is a little rich for Ministers to demand it beyond the Government. Despite the fact that the Minister has at command the parliamentary draftsmen and lots of people with double firsts and ex-Wykehamists in his Department, the best he can come up with after careful consideration since Second Reading on 28 October are amendments that would delete the Bill clause by clause. Like the Cheshire cat, it would gradually disappear, leaving only a smile at the end.

That is entirely symptomatic of the Government’s attitude to pensions reform. They are like a rabbit caught in the headlights: they do not know what to do and they do not want anyone else to do anything either. My right hon. and learned Friend’s proposals are a sensible way of addressing several of the major problems in pensions today.

The Government—particularly the Treasury—have set out from the beginning not only to block reform but to undermine and rubbish the results of the Turner commission, which took three years and £1.6 million to produce an excellent, thorough and well-reasoned report. I am not saying that we will sign up to every paragraph of it, but much of it is common sense if only for the reason that much of it represents what was in the Conservative party manifesto at the last election.

The Treasury has gone out of its way to demolish the findings of the Turner commission by leaking its proposals in advance and by leaking a letter to Lord Turner about the uprating of pension credit. Yet again, we see that the Treasury, particularly in the shape of the Chancellor, is the true roadblock to reform.

The Bill is all about boosting savings. We have seen a halving of savings since 1997, and the Bill would do a great deal to restore the position. I am amazed that the Government seek to sabotage the Bill and even more amazed that they have no concrete proposals to put in its place. I would have enormous respect for the Department and the Minister if they had tabled reasoned details amendments to improve the Bill. All they seek to do is demolish it. That is very sad, and the official Opposition’s attitude is that the Bill deserves a fair wind, deserves to go through Committee and deserves to return to the House.