Clause 74 - Duty to have regard to the interests

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 16th March 2004.

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Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne 11:00 am, 16th March 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 239, in

clause 74, page 48, line 35, at end insert

'including sponsoring employers of any such schemes.'.

The amendment would tighten up the wording of clause 74(2) to make it clear that among the persons whose interests the regulator needs to consider in such circumstances are the sponsoring employers of any such schemes. That is a blindingly obvious statement. I have no doubt that the Government wish to accept the amendment.

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

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that query. I reassure him that a sponsoring employer will be covered by these provisions. The clause requires the regulator, when it is deciding to exercise its regulatory functions, including their review, to take into account the interests of the generality of scheme members who will be affected by its actions, and the interests of other persons whom it considers will be directly affected. It ensures that the regulator acts fairly and proportionately when exercising its regulatory functions.

The amendment would add an automatic duty to consider the interests of employers. I assure the hon. Gentleman that if a sponsoring employer were directly

affected, the clause would provide that its interests would be considered. However, the employer is not always directly affected. Indeed, the decision about who was directly affected would depend on the circumstances. If the regulator is appointing an additional trustee and the fees are to be paid by the employer, the employer would be directly affected and its interests would be considered. Similarly, if the regulator determines to freeze or wind up a scheme, the employer would be directly affected and its interests would be considered.

However, if the regulator imposes a penalty on the trustees, the employer may not be directly affected by the decision. The hon. Gentleman should note that even if the determinations panel does not deem an employer to be directly affected, the employer may appeal to the pensions regulator tribunal to be a directly affected party under clause 70(3) if the employer wishes to make a reference.

I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment in the light of that reassurance.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 74 ordered to stand part of the Bill.