Clause 8 - The Non-Executive Committee

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 9th March 2004.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Chris Pond Mr Chris Pond Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

As I have not yet had the opportunity to address you yet in this Committee, Mr. Griffiths, may I add my expression of delight to those of my hon. Friend the Minister for Pensions and of other hon. Members, that you and Mr. Cran will be shepherding us through the discussion of this important piece of legislation.

Clause 8 establishes that the regulator will have a non-executive committee, which will consist of the chairman and the other non-executive members of the regulator. The committee will have a number of specific functions that may not be delegated to any other part of the regulatory process. We have already made the point that the establishment of a non-executive committee for the regulator is consistent with the recommendations of the Higgs report, about which we have already heard much today.

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State explained earlier, we believe that the principle and purpose of a non-executive committee should apply equally to Government bodies such as the regulator.

The primary intention of having such a committee is to provide a degree of independence in overseeing the governance and strategy of the organisation. The creation of a non-executive committee, under clause 8(1), will ensure that the regulator remains efficient and accountable and makes the most appropriate use of the regulator's resources, which will be paid for by pension scheme members. That means not only that the regulation process will be designed to protect the benefits of pension scheme members, but that those responsible for the management and administration of pension schemes will be appropriately protected as well.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne 3:30 pm, 9th March 2004

I do not want to dwell on clause 8, but I would like the Under-Secretary's confirmation of how the non-executive committee will operate. Presumably, it is expected that the Higgs recommendations on corporate governance will be carried out to the letter. All too often in the past we have seen corporate situations in which non-executives have been kept in the dark about crucial matters. Given the committee's likely profile, that would be disastrous.

Does the Under-Secretary have any thoughts about issues such as length of service, the reappointment of non-executives and how many other such posts individuals might hold? Part of the general Higgs

concern is that some people collect such posts like postage stamps.

Photo of Mr Chris Pond Mr Chris Pond Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

We shall come to further details on that matter shortly. I reassure the hon. Gentleman that our purpose is to ensure that we maintain as much transparency and accountability as possible through the operation of the non-executives in the regulation process.

If we deferred discussion of the further details of the issues raised by the hon. Gentleman until later in our proceedings, we would make better use of our time.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.