Pensions Bill — Commons Amendments
Baroness Drake (Labour)
My Lords, I can see the purpose of Amendments 18 to 23, particularly the need to address the consequences of the Government's decision to use the CPI for the statutory revaluation of pension benefits, yet not proceeding to introduce a statutory override to pension schemes whose rules explicitly provide for the revaluation additions to be calculated by reference to the RPI. I recognise that where the statutory method uses the CPI, there is an inconsistency for schemes that apply the RPI in the very infrequent event that the CPI exceeds the RPI in a particular year. In such a situation, schemes paying the RPI would, without these amendments, be faced with a statutory underpin of CPI. In effect, the rules of schemes that apply RPI would be interpreted to mean that revaluation is calculated by reference to the CPI or the RPI, whichever is the greater.
This amendment would remove that underpin requirement and allow schemes to continue to revalue by reference to the RPI, which would seem sensible and reasonable. While the Government are to be congratulated on not imposing a statutory override on pension scheme rules to apply the CPI rather than the RPI, where the rules so explicitly provide, the need for these amendments occur in part because of the open-ended decision by the Government to substitute the CPI for the RPI in the uprating of most benefits. It is with some regret that the Government did not put a time limit on that switch from RPI to CPI. There is scope for a review because I am sure that over the long term, when the economy returns to strong growth and earnings outstrip prices, and the price of key items is excluded from the indexation, the Government will need to revisit this matter.
That is particularly so for pensions, although I doubt that the Government will revisit this now. The change to the CPI from the RPI for evaluation effects a switch of assets and benefits from scheme members to scheme sponsors and does not directly impact the public deficit. None the less, it is clear that these amendments are a necessary flow-through from the Government's decision, and I can see no reason to oppose them.
Amendments 24 to 28 are technical in nature and address matters relating to the indexing of the guaranteed minimum pension. Again, I see no reason to disagree with them.