Clause 28 - Supplementary provision relating to

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 11th March 2004.

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

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Labour, Cardiff West

I just wanted to raise a further point about consultation. I am not sure whether now is the appropriate moment, but it relates to clause 28 and some worries that have been raised by the trade union, Amicus, about consultation and freezing orders.

As clause 28 will allow the regulator to make freezing or winding-up orders without reference to

anyone, Amicus is concerned that there should be some requirement to consult members of a scheme before an order is made. That might not be a practical position, but that is the issue that the trade union wants to probe. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will comment on the possibility of scheme members being consulted before any major changes—in particular, freezing orders—are made and on consultation more generally as it relates to the Bill.

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

My hon. Friend raises an important point. The purpose of the freezing order is to take swift action when it looks as if a scheme is getting into trouble. If action is to be taken in a matter of hours or days, the consultation process is not possible. As I have said several times, the purpose of a freezing order is to ensure that the interests of members are neither enhanced nor diminished during that period. Even when it is not possible to consult and quick action has to be taken—I am sure that the regulator would wish to consult whenever feasible—the members can be reassured that the purpose of that action is explicitly to protect their interests and is not intended to damage them. I hope that Amicus will understand that there will be circumstances in which the regulator just has to act.

Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South

If a scheme is in trouble and the trustees decide to wind it up, will they have to notify the regulator of their intention and will there be an opportunity for the regulator to impose a freeze on that scheme before it is wound up?

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

No, in those circumstances the trustees would not have to inform the regulator that they had decided to wind up the scheme. I am sure that the regulator would take an interest in whether the circumstances were appropriate and would want to ensure that members' interests were protected, but I do not think that there would be any formal requirement for the trustees to inform the regulator that they would be taking that action.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.