Clause 12 - Annual reports to Secretary of State

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 9th March 2004.

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

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister for pensions, Department for Work and Pensions

The clause proposes that the regulator should publish an annual report, which is a good, sensible idea.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I said earlier in a different context that I did not regard myself as being in a drafting competition, which is just as well because the amendments that I drafted were miserably inappropriate and were not selected. I suppose that they were out of order. I shall deal with those on stand part.

We agree that a report is a good idea. Every day every one of us gets lots of glossy reports from all manner of organisations, and we read them carefully before consigning them to the circular filing cabinet. I agree with the Minister that it is important, particularly in the early years, that what the regulator does is set out in an annual report. We have no quarrel with that. However, we want to make two changes. First, we want those reports made not to the Secretary of State, but to Parliament. They are so important that they should be made directly to Parliament. Secondly, we want the reports to be debatable. The Government should provide time every year for a debate on them so that we can all see how our new creation—not least the determinations panel—is getting on. I shall be following the panel's career with a closeness that defies belief.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne Shadow Minister (Treasury)

My hon. Friend will be on them.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

Indeed, if there is a sufficiently good package, I might even apply.

We want to see how the system works in practice, our constituents will want to see, and the people out there who have to make it work in the industry will also need to see that. An annual report is an excellent idea, but I urge the Minister to make it a report to Parliament, rather than the Secretary of State, and to ensure—and at least to indicate—that in the early years there is a full debate on it at some point so that we can all see how it is developing and whether it is developing as we predicted in Committee. I am sure that hon. Members would be clamouring to speak in such a debate.

My amendments did not pass the test, but I have made my points.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister for pensions, Department for Work and Pensions

As for whether the annual report goes to the Secretary of State or Parliament, my instinct is to say ''same difference''. The clause provides for an annual report to the Secretary of State, but the Secretary of State will lay a copy of every report he receives under the clause before both Houses of Parliament—and will send one by special

courier to the hon. Members for Northavon and for Eastbourne. I need to move the amendments allowing that on Report, but that is our intention.

I do not want to go over the same overture, but the OPRA practice was to lay the report before the Secretary of State, and we are following that practice. However, Parliament will have ample opportunity to receive and discuss the report.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.