I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I welcome Gregg McClymont to his place. Notwithstanding our earlier little exchanges, I unreservedly welcome him. I am sure that he will be a great asset to his party, and I look forward to other clashes and debates that we may have as time goes on. I thank the Members on both sides of the House who served with distinction on the Public Bill Committee for their help in scrutinising the Bill. They have had to hang around for quite a long time, but we are where we are now. I also thank the Opposition for their approach to many of the positive debates on the Bill’s clauses. May I also extend my appreciation to my hon. Friend Mr Brady and Katy Clark for chairing the Committee sittings through those longer moments?
It is also right that I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Pensions Minister for his commitment to taking this important legislation through this House. If there is anybody in government who has championed the cause of the low-paid in pensions, it is him. It is a privilege and pleasure to work with him in this coalition—a very firm coalition in our case. On a departmental point, may I back him up on what he said about one of our civil servants, Evelyn Arnold, whom Stephen Timms knows? She is retiring after a long time and has seen so many of these things go through, and it is right for us to thank those who serve us without normal comment. So, without question, I thank her for the time she has spent, on behalf of all parties in government, getting this sort of legislation through.
Over the past few months, a number of amendments were made that I believe have improved the Bill, and I shall run through them. With the blessing of the House, I do not intend to spend much time on them because we have been through them a lot. Amendment 1 related to the consumer prices index underpin, where we have listened to concerns and responded by ensuring that schemes that use the retail prices index will not have to uprate by CPI in the years when it is higher. We have heard the issues raised on deferred member charges and, having listened, we have extended an existing reserve power to cap charges to also cover deferred members. That enables the Government to protect all scheme members from high charges regardless of what might come in the future, which is an important feature. Thirdly, we have also made an amendment to clarify the definition of money purchase benefits in light of the Supreme Court’s recent judgment in Houldsworth v. Bridge, ensuring that schemes and members continue to have adequate protection.
The House will be aware that we have listened and responded to concerns about the women most affected by the accelerated rise in the state pension age. Last week we announced that no women will see their state pension age increase by more than 18 months. We have always been clear that our policy will not change and we will still equalise the state pension age by 2018 and increase it to 66 by 2020. We have, however, honoured the commitment I gave on Second Reading to ease the transition process for those who are most affected. I listened with interest to the debate, but the point that is sometimes missed is that the adjustment means that nearly 250,000 women will have a lower state pension age as a result of the change, as will a similar number of men: 500,000 people at a cost of just over £1 billion in the next spending period. We should not sniff at that.