Clause 189 - Power to modify provisions of this Part

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 23rd March 2004.

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

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

This is a small point, but an important one. Yet again we are considering a very wide get-out clause. Clause 189 will allow, by regulation, the modification of provisions in this part of the Bill as they apply in prescribed circumstances. Indeed, one could almost have eliminated all the other clauses in this part and left just this clause, because, as has been pointed out not just by me but by representatives of the industry and other interested parties, the reality is that all the meat in this part has been left to be prescribed. Piling one thing on another, there is now a power to change the prescription later.

Since we have no idea at present what the detailed regulations will provide, it is almost impossible to conceive what the Government have in mind for changing later. Such sloppy legislation makes it extremely difficult to gauge just what we are being asked to sign up to in this part. As such, the Minister may have noticed the paucity of Opposition amendments and suggestions from the industry for amendments. We are being offered a pig in a poke, if I may use that expression. If I thought that we could win the vote, I would recommend that my hon. Friends vote against clause 189.

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

I am sure that one day the hon. Gentleman will win a vote, but not just yet. This issue, which he has returned to on several occasions and which, to be fair, Opposition Members tend to return to on such occasions, raises the crucial question about the balance that must be struck between provisions in a Bill and the need for secondary legislation. However, I shall not deal with that well-known British constitutional point. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will concede that in technically detailed matters such as this, where circumstances change regularly—if not all the time—it would be wrong of us to constrain and restrain ourselves in the Bill if that meant that its overall objectives could not be pursued.

The framework and broad principles of the scheme-specific funding requirements, which will replace the MFR, are set out in the Bill. The detailed requirements that will operate within that framework will more properly be set out in regulations, for the reasons that I have hinted at. That will enable us to work closely with the pension industry and bodies representing both employers and pension scheme members to ensure that

the detailed requirements of the regulations are workable and effective.

The public need to know what the broad thrust of the wishes of the Government and Parliament. We can then enter the detailed discussions that the hon. Gentleman has urged us to take seriously on a number of occasions; we do take them seriously.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 189 ordered to stand part of the Bill.