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 David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 2:30, 14 Rhagfyr 2005

It is a pleasure, Mr. Benton, to serve under your chairmanship again. I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea on introducing his Bill, which, as we said on the Floor of the House, has a number of useful components.

Clearly, the Minister felt a little guilty about the Government’s approach to the Bill because he had obviously sent someone off to do some homework and establish what precedents there were for deleting an entire Bill clause by clause. He did rather have to scrape the bottom of the barrel by going back to 1919. He seemed to be going back so far that he might eventually hit a Liberal Government, but stopped just short of that.

Perhaps we should not be too ungenerous because by deleting the Bill clause by clause, we presumably end up with a blank piece of paper, which would align the Bill with Government pension policy—at least we have consistency. To be a little more constructive and generous, I ought to say that it is perhaps not a surprise that the Minister has taken such a position, given that we understand the Department for Work and Pensions is seeking to decide how to respond in a coherent way to the Turner commission report. We await with interest the conclusion of the Government discussions to discover whether consensus will be reached, which we have all sought, with the Treasury. The Treasury seems to be, in the current Conservative parlance, the roadblock to what are widely considered to be desirable reforms.

I hope that the Minister’s recent courageous comments, indicating that the Turner report should be taken forward, the comments in the Daily Mirror article by the Prime Minister and the statements by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions are all signs that Downing street and the Department are going to get together to rescue from the clutches of the Treasury a pensions policy in which a fairy godmother is required each Budget to hand out odd items of additional expenditure for which we are all supposed to be grateful to the Chancellor. That is not a sustainable basis on which to run our pensions policy in future.

Even if the Minister uses the ranks of supporting Labour Members to delete the items in the Bill, we hope that he will at least indicate which parts of the Bill   are valuable, which are not and which he intends to take forward into the White Paper or Green Paper, or whatever it will be, in the spring, summer, autumn, or whenever it will be, so that some of the good elements of the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s Bill are not lost.

On 28 October we expressed our view on the proposals in the Bill and welcomed two of the key proposals. We expressed some concern about the first area of the savings and retirement account, some of the practical elements of how that would work and the issue of pension tax relief. I shall not detain the Committee by reading out my previous speech.

If the Minister will not be as constructive today as he was on 28 October, I hope that he will at least provide some signposts for how the Government intend to take policy forward.