Orders of the Day — Parliamentary and Other Pensions Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:22 pm on 27th April 1987.

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Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Minister of State (HM Treasury) 9:22 pm, 27th April 1987

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I should not have taken his speech out of order in replying to the debate. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney raised the matter of contributions and the amounts.

I shall respond in general to the question about the report by the Government Actuary. The Government Actuary's latest report was published in November and shows that the Exchequer is still making additional contributions to eliminate the deficiency in the fund that was created mainly by earlier Acts which gave credit for service before 1964, for which no contributions were paid. Therefore, there is no question of the fund being in surplus. The right hon. Member for Wythenshawe spoke about that.

I realise that it is important for the House to have clear information about the state of the fund and the Government Actuary's report. If there are ways in which we can improve the transmission of that information, I shall be delighted to enter into correspondence with hon. Members about how this might be achieved.

The right hon. Member for Wythenshawe asked a number of questions about methods by which the scheme might be improved. As I said earlier, that is not the substance and subject of the Bill. However, one has to ask that question in the context of various questions to the TSRB. He said that we should be able to secure better benefits if the fund's investments are working as well as we have cause to believe them to be. Of course. that works both ways, and I take it that hon. Members would not wish to see benefits reduced when investments do less well. Under the present system, the Exchequer bears all that risk and that underlies the nature of the Exchequer's contribution.

The right hon. Member for Wythenshawe conjectured about the date of the election. I cannot shed any light on that, nor can I speculate about the pace with which we can carry this legislation through. The legislation is useful and I hope that it will be carried through promptly. I also have a family association with my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud in that he and my father were LCC members for my constituency. I am conscious that my hon. Friend will not fight the next election. One's fear, when one hears hon. Friends and Opposition Members speak in the Chamber, is that one may be hearing them for the last time. I am delighted that I have had an opportunity to speak in this debate.

The issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud fall into the general area of those raised by other hon. Members, in that improvements to the arrangements for the scheme are not essentially dealt with in this Bill.

The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainright), as a managing trustee, referred to contributions and the hon. Member for Blaydon and others thanked the trustees and the Fees Office, as do I. The hon. Member for Blaydon introduced the civil war into the debate. Part of my constituency played a role vis-a-vis the rest of the nation with which it is not always associated in the light of subsequent events. I was somewhat puzzled as to whether the Government Actuary or the Treasury was supposed to be the mother-in-law.