I have a couple of minor queries about the issuing of scheme returns. I wanted to question the need for the long period mentioned in subsection (3)(a), which says that the regulator only has to issue the demand for information within three years of the regulator being informed that there is a new scheme. Three years strikes me as quite a long time; I should be interested to know why the Government chose that period.
There was some confusion in my mind when I was reading the Bill about the following: under clause 37(2), once the scheme is set up, the trustees and managers have to send in certain registrable information within three months. However, clause 38 seems to imply that the decision to comply with clause 37 is voluntary; clause 38(3)(b) says that
''if the trustees or managers have complied with paragraph (b) of section 37(2)''
they only have to provide information a year later. That seemed to imply that there was a voluntary element to complying with the previous clause and the request for information. I may have misunderstood, but that is how the matter seemed to me.
To reiterate my first point, why such a long period? Why three years? Why not one year, as might seem more reasonable?
On the first point, the regulator will issue scheme return notices—that is, the requests for information—to each scheme. On the frequency of scheme returns, they will be not more than annual and not less than triennial. The frequency is to be determined by the regulator, but will be based on risk factors. Those schemes that are well run and well administered may be required to complete returns less
frequently than those schemes where risk factors are present, so the approach that we are suggesting is proportionate.
A scheme return notice will require provision of all registrable information in relation to the scheme, and any other information in relation to the scheme that is requested by the regulator to enable it to exercise its functions. The emphasis is, therefore, on proportionality. As in all things, we want to get the balance right between proper scrutiny of all schemes and more scrutiny of those schemes that might be at risk. That is our approach.
On the second question, which was the suggestion that the provisions could be voluntary, the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood. Would it be helpful if I wrote to him on the textual points? My understanding is that we are not talking about a voluntary provision, because that would undermine the whole purpose of the Bill.
I apologise if I am not intervening at the appropriate time, but I want to give the hon. Gentleman more information on his substantive point. Scheme returns will also be issued. We often forget about the personal pension providers but, as a generality, they are likely to be issued every three years. However, defined benefit schemes—the core of the Bill—will have a scheme return each year. I am generalising, but they have a higher risk for members.