Pension Schemes Bill — Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 7th January 2015.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 6:45 pm, 7th January 2015

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who participated in the debate on this amendment. The Bill sets out a regulatory framework for collective benefits. Part 2 defines collective benefits and provides for a number of regulation-making powers. The Government’s intention is to produce a comprehensive set of regulations governing the day-to-day running and decision-making in schemes that provide collective benefits. This will include detailed provision around the statement of investment strategy and the investment performance reports that are the subjects of these amendments.

The powers in Part 2 generally have been developed in consultation with the industry. While the Government have laid out an overarching regulatory structure for collective benefits, the consultation process will not stop with the introduction of primary legislation. The Government will continue to listen to industry views and the views of pensioners and take into account the experience of European pension systems. We have heard mention of the Netherlands and Denmark as well as other systems—Canada, for example—where collective arrangements are already in place.

Members will be handing over control of their assets to the trustees or managers running the scheme in a way which differs from individual defined contribution schemes, where the members will usually have some direct choice and options. Also, because members collectively, rather than individually, bear the investment risk, there is a less direct relationship, compared to individual defined contribution schemes, about how the returns are attributed to individual members. It is therefore important that key requirements about investment are applied appropriately. It is important that there is clarity about what the investment strategy is, so that members can be clear about how their money will be invested collectively.

That is why Clause 14 may require the trustees or managers of a pension scheme to prepare a statement of their investment strategy. This clarity is important, as those running the scheme will need to decide on the appropriate balance to be struck between risk where the returns are uncertain and assets that deliver a reliable income. I shall clarify the point that was raised about whether the Government could foresee a situation where we did not provide for regulations in a particular area: no, we cannot.

The difference here is between “may” and “must”. We believe that driving this forward in the way that we are, in conjunction with the industry, is appropriate and that this is likely to deliver—indeed, will deliver—the best result. We are also conscious of the fact that on occasion we need to act quickly to make appropriate changes. I assure the Committee that it is our intention to ensure that there are regulations in relation to both the points raised in these amendments.

I should also say that this is related to trust schemes. Further work and conversations are required with the Financial Conduct Authority to establish how it will regulate non-trust-based schemes offering collective benefits. It may be that it is more effective and appropriate for some of the regulation-making powers under Part 2 to be used in relation to occupational schemes only, and for the FCA to make parallel provision in relation to personal pension schemes. That is one reason, because of the two schemes going forward together, why we believe that the Government’s permissive approach is right, but of course we could always revisit that if we felt it necessary to do so. On that basis, I respectfully ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment, while acknowledging his continuing charm, which he referred to earlier.