Clause 55 - Use of information

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 11th March 2004.

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Photo of George Osborne George Osborne Shadow Minister (Treasury) 4:00 pm, 11th March 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 211, in

clause 55, page 36, line 8, leave out from 'register' to end of line 9.

The more I look at it, the more I suspect that this is a wrecking amendment, because it would render the clause meaningless. Nevertheless, it provides a good opportunity to debate this clause on the use of information. We have discussed many clauses on the use of information, and we will discuss many more. My attention was drawn to this one by paragraph (b), which says that information

''otherwise held by the Regulator in the exercise of any of its functions, may be used by the Regulator for the purposes of, or for any purpose connected with or incidental to, the exercise of its functions.''

I would be interested to hear the Government say what the point of this little clause is. If it were not included,

perhaps the regulator could not exercise any of its functions.

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

I feel reassured to see that my PPS, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde—

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

Yes, my hon. Friend has re-ratted, as Churchill would have said. My hon. Friend was on a mission for me on the Conservative Benches. The record should show that he did not briefly join the Conservative party.

The amendment seeks to limit the information that the regulator may use in exercising its functions to registrable information, as defined in clause 35. Judging by what he said earlier, the hon. Member for Tatton has guessed that that would be highly damaging to the work of the regulator, because registrable information is limited and consists of the name and address of a scheme, its sponsoring employer or institution, and its trustees. The clause provides the regulator with flexibility to use all the information that it collects for any purpose connected with its functions, rather than have artificial barriers in the organisation that would prohibit effective regulation and might jeopardise scheme members' benefits by hindering information sharing.

I shall give an example of the impact of the amendment, if it were agreed and not withdrawn. Let us say that the regulator receives a whistleblower's report saying that two trustees are about to empty the scheme's bank account and leave the country. What can it do? I can hear hon. Members thinking that it could appoint a trustee or get an injunction—but that would not be so. If the hon. Gentleman's amendment were agreed, that would be prevented and the regulator would be unable to use the whistleblower's information to protect the scheme members. The amendment would at least allow trustees' names and

addresses held on the register to be used, so the regulator could send them a bon voyage card.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne Shadow Minister (Treasury)

On closer examination, I did suspect that this was a wrecking amendment. However, it has provided the opportunity for a useful debate about the clause. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 ordered to stand part of the Bill.