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Pension Schemes Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:34 pm on 30th January 2017.

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Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 10:34 pm, 30th January 2017

I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on continuing so well the leadership and robustness started by your predecessor in the Chair. I apologise for any offence caused to the Chair. I actually thought I was speaking within the scope of the Bill, but I will of course be led by the Chair and move on to the substance of the Bill.

As I said, the points raised in the debate by Members on both sides of the House have been broadly complimentary. The whole purpose of the Bill is for the Government to be able to respond very quickly to the phenomenal and exponential growth in master trusts over the past two years. That growth was not predicted by the Opposition, who take credit for auto-enrolment—in fact, there was cross-party consensus—and it was not predicted by either the coalition Government or this Government. It happened very quickly and I believe the Government are doing the right thing by responding quickly. I do not accept that the Government have acted too slowly.

I was very glad to receive the support of the shadow Secretary of State, and she made a very relevant point when she explained her view about the expansion of master trusts. We are not allowed to mention the “w” word, as Peter Dowd calls it from a sedentary position, because that would be outside the scope of the Bill. The regulation has been very considered. Both Labour Front-Bench spokesmen and the SNP spokesman commented on the large amount of secondary legislation. The reason is very clear: we want to consult very quickly with industry and responsible parties on the detail, but this process will not take a long time. We have to get the detail absolutely right, because this is a one-off chance to regulate. There will be a chance for scrutiny by both Houses, because in the first instance the regulations will be subject to affirmative procedure.

Many Government Members, including my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat, spoke about transparency. We take this very seriously and we are consulting on it. It is not in the Bill, but it is in the spirit of the Bill, because the regulator will be provided with many powers that will help to enforce transparency and members’ rights, which have been discussed.