Clause 88 - Investment principles

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 23rd March 2004.

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Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne 4:45 pm, 23rd March 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 349, in

clause 88, page 55, line 9, at end insert—

'(5) The statement of investment principles prepared under this section shall be made available by all appropriate means to members of the public.'.

This is another amendment inspired by the National Association of Pension Funds and it is a sensible one. A statement of investment principles must be prepared, as we have seen, under the clause. That is quite right too. However, I can see no reason why that should not be available to members of the public. The body in question is, after all, a public body designed to protect members of the public who are members of final salary occupational pension schemes. The NAPF takes the view—and I agree—that the information should be in the public domain.

I cannot see any argument, for example, that the investment of the pension protection fund would be so enormous that knowledge of the investment strategy would affect other economic considerations. I can see no immediate reason for any secrecy or confidentiality. I think, although I cannot find the relevant clause off the top of my head, that I am right in saying that the board will publish its accounts annually, and that those will be open and available to members of the public, who take a close interest in such matters. So it seems perfectly sensible that the investment principles underlying the way in which those concerned deal with the funds or assets with which they are endowed, or the money received through levies, should be set out in a way that is accessible to the public.

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

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that his amendment is necessary to achieve the objective. I certainly support the aim that he outlined. We stress that although the body being set up will operate at arm's length from Government, it must abide by reasonable reporting requirements, which will include the duty to prepare annual reports and accounts. The account must also contain an

actuarial valuation of the fund's assets and liabilities. The requirement to produce a written statement of the principles governing decisions about investments is similar to that which applies to trustees of pension schemes, which is set out in clause 199. It is intended that the statement of investment principles must be made available to members of the public on request as part of the disclosure requirements. The details of the disclosure requirements will be set out in regulations under clause 165(1), which we shall discuss in the coming weeks.

In view of that reassurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing the amendment.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation; I am thoroughly reassured. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 88 ordered to stand part of the Bill.