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 Bradley Lord Bradley Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 6:45 pm, 7th January 2015

My Lords, I will not labour the points that we have already made regarding affirmative resolutions of regulations, but I shall speak briefly to Clause 21 because it is another key clause in shaping the structure and policies of pension schemes that are to be developed under Part 2. This is another area that, as we know, the Delegated Power Committee picked out when it said that,

“the likely ingredients of regulations will be so significant to the working of Part 2 as a whole that the negative procedure will not afford the House an appropriate opportunity to debate the provision that will determine the shape of the arrangements”.

I am aware that the Minister is going to bring forward an amendment on that so we will have that opportunity, but it is always worth putting on the record the views of the excellent Delegated Powers Committee on these matters, and obviously we welcome the Government’s response to it.

We have another amendment in this group, along with the delegated powers amendment, which again turns—I will not labour this point—on the issue of “may” and “must”. The first part of Clause 21, which is entitled, “Policy for dealing with a deficit or surplus”, says:

“Regulations may require the trustees or managers of a pension scheme … to have a policy for dealing with a deficit or surplus in respect of any collective benefits that may be provided by the scheme, and … to follow that policy if a valuation report shows a deficit or surplus”.

In our view, it is extremely important that they have a policy around deficit or surplus; it is inconceivable, as my noble friend Lady Drake pointed out in the previous comparable amendment, that there would not be such a policy.

I ask again, similarly to the previous set of amendments, whether the Minister sees any circumstances in which there would not be a policy for trustees in applying and dealing with deficits or surpluses. In order to ensure that the members have confidence in the policies, it is crucial that they are consulted on those policies, so there must be a policy that is available for them to have that assurance. For the members of the scheme there must be a policy, so the regulations should be saying that the trustees must produce a policy around deficit and surpluses within the scheme, which are crucial to the members within the scheme. I feel sure that the Minister will be able to give us the necessary assurances on that, which is why I shall be brief and beg to move.