New clause 8 - Transition arrangements

Part of Armed Forces (Pensions and Compensation) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 24th February 2004.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Shadow Minister (Defence) 4:15 pm, 24th February 2004

The hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that such statements are simple to produce, but I suspect that some quite important IT may be required to deliver up to 200,000 sets of individual comparative tables. I may be wrong and he may be right, but I think that the situation will be more complicated than he suggests, and we have a duty to ask questions. I would be happy if the comparative tables given to people were of good quality, clear and straightforward. In such circumstances, I would be inclined to feel that the chain of command could handle the issue, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman realises the extent to which it will now feel inhibited and nervous about giving advice on a matter of this complexity, particularly when there are issues in the public domain about pensions mis-selling and so on. It is an extremely serious issue.

There are many unanswered questions about the transitional arrangements that the Government intend to introduce. I hope that the Minister will now share with the Committee exactly what he proposes to do. The hon. Member for Falkirk, West has served in Her Majesty's armed forces and may be able to give him some advice. My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West may be able to give him advice. The Minister should take advantage of the wisdom in the Committee and tap into it to test what he proposes to do. Time is galloping on, however, and if he wants to have things in place by April 2005 he must crack on, get the systems in place and tell us what the systems are.