Transfer Payments and Preserved Benefits

Part of New Clause 1 – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 20th July 1987.

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Photo of Sir Brandon Rhys Williams Sir Brandon Rhys Williams , Kensington 4:15 pm, 20th July 1987

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to reply to the points that have been made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith), whose opinions I greatly respect, said that it was good to allow final salary schemes as an option. I do not disagree with that. However, the employer has a responsibility to put something aside for his employee all the time in the form of deferred pay. That should be an identifiable sum. Preferably it should go into one of our tax haven schemes, build up compound interest and be available to provide an annuity at the end of the day. That does not mean to say that an employer cannot have a final salary scheme on top of his minimum obligation.

The minumum obligation that is imposed through the SERPS rules is far too small and I suggested in Committee that employers should put at least 10 per cent. on top of wages into provision for retirement. Anything less than that will leave many employees in a position where, when they come to retire, they must apply to the taxpayer for benefit in the form of supplementary benefit. That is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. To compensate for that extra burden on employers, I threw out the hint that the Inland Revenue might agree to forgo national insurance contributions, which are simply a form of income tax. I am not hostile to final salary schemes, provided the employer has first met his minimum obligation, which means to all employees, not just early leavers, whom I am dealing with in the new clause.

My hon. Friend said that final salary schemes were welcomed during the long period of inflation because they were protected up to the time when the employee left service at the normal age of retirement. Thus the inflation which took place during the course of his career was borne by the scheme and at the date of retirement his pension was awarded on the basis of the value of money at that time. That is true; but look at the deplorable record of occupational pension schemes in looking after beneficiaries after retirement. I believe that only 2 per cent. have undertaken to give full uprating to pensioners after the date of award. Therefore, the final salary scheme does not do so much for beneficiaries after they have left employment.