Schedule 7 - Pension compensation provisions

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 30th March 2004.

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Amendment moved [this day]: No. 479, in

schedule 7, page 200, line 41, leave out '27' and insert '25'.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Labour, Bridgend

I remind the Committee that with this we are taking Government amendments Nos. 481 to 485.

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

Under the chairmanship of Mr. Cran this morning, we were interrupted at the end of the sitting when I was talking about the Government amendments that deal with the cap on the pension protection fund. I was saying how we set out different types of compensation that are subject to the cap. I shall clarify the matter. The different types cover people under the normal retirement age of their scheme and who are not receiving an ill-health pension, but are pensioners at the assessment date. For example, they have taken early retirement. They also cover active and deferred members who are under the normal retirement age of their scheme at the assessment date and any future survivor's benefits in relation to those members will also be capped as the level of survivors' entitlement is calculated from the member's compensation.

The amendment sets out the details of how the cap will apply. For example, sub-paragraphs (6) and (7) introduce the annualised value of any lump sum payments, which will enable them to be treated consistently with any periodic payments. If the total of periodic payments and any annualised values of lump sum payments exceed the cap, all amounts of compensation will be reduced proportionately by the cap fraction, so that the total compensation is equivalent to the level of the cap. The compensation cap at age 65 will be set by the Secretary of State. In order to maintain flexibility, the PPF board will publish figures for the level of the cap at other ages. They will be actuarially equivalent to the level at age 65 and will therefore be lower when the compensation is payable at ages younger than 65 and higher at older ages.

The other amendments are minor drafting amendments either correcting references between clauses or making changes to improve the wording or clarity of the clause. Amendment No. 485 would delete paragraph 27 as the provisions in that paragraph are now subsumed into paragraph 25. I hope that members of the Committee will accept the amendments.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

Welcome back to the Committee, Mr. Griffiths.

I am grateful to the Minister for writing to the Committee, and for his explanation. He was caught in mid-sentence this morning. I read in Mr. Peter Ustinov's obituary in The Times today that someone once asked him how he would prefer to die and he replied that he did not mind as long as it was not in the middle of a sentence. That was a good answer.

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

I hope that that does not happen to me in the middle of my remarks on amendment No. 414.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

Given the excitement in this Committee, would anyone notice? I am sorry; that comment was mean and below the belt, and I withdraw it unreservedly.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation, and I am delighted that I have not had to work out what the sinister-looking algebraic equation means; I take it entirely at face value that it means what the Minister says it means—that it is something to do with the annualised value. I can see the sense of trying to marry elements together so that there is one cap rather than a multiplicity of caps. That is right in general terms, but time will tell whether it wreaks unfairness in individual cases.

The Minister was perhaps a little too eager to defend the cap; this morning he blithely talked about 10 per cent. of employees. For higher-paid employees, that could mean a very significant loss from the pension promise that they were expecting. I hope that the Chancellor's redistributive instincts are not creeping in.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I have just received a little yellow book on Liberal Democrat quotations, and I shall add that one to the collection. My party is not noted for its attachment to redistributive taxation. [Interruption.] Ah, the pension protection fund again.

The Minister might have been a little too glib. I hope that his sole motive is the honourable one of trying to contain the costs. Ultimately, that was his central argument on the 90 per cent. and 100 per cent. cliff edge that we discussed this morning. I hope that he is not also slightly gleeful that higher-paid employees will lose out significantly more than others simply because they are more highly paid. There is no sin in that; indeed, it may reflect some merit on their part, or commitment to their company. We should remember that, and that they will lose out disproportionately even under this scheme.

The explanatory note was helpful, and I hope that more of them are in the pipeline on future amendments. Having read that and listened to what has been said, I will not oppose the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 480, in

schedule 7, page 203, leave out line 4 and insert—

'(3) The compensation is a lump sum equal to 90% of the protected amount.

(3A) In sub-paragraph (3) ''the protected amount'' means the aggregate of—'.

No. 481, in

schedule 7, page 203, line 21, leave out '27' and insert '25'.—[Malcolm Wicks.]

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I beg to move amendment No. 414, in

schedule 7, page 204, line 25, after 'may', insert

'(and in the case of children must)'.

This is a short point that slightly mirrors the debate on widows and widowers. There is no provision in schedule 7 for any children's pensions that might otherwise have been payable under the scheme. Paragraph 22 contains a general regulatory power to

allow compensation to be payable to prescribed dependants, but it seemed right to have a clear obligation in the schedule giving statutory rights to children who would have been entitled under the scheme. I have a sinking feeling that this is already covered but, even if it is, we do not think that it is sufficiently covered.

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

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the purpose of the PPF compensation in the form of dependants' benefits, as set out in paragraph 22, is to provide security for children. The hon. Gentleman's amendment is thus well intentioned—my notes say that it is ''superfluous'' but that sounds rude, and I want to start the afternoon on a good note.

The detail of the provisions for PPF dependants' benefits will be set out in regulation, and that will encompass children. Provisions will be set out in regulations as flexibly as required when dealing with the complex area of dependants. With that assurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider withdrawing his well intentioned amendment.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

It is possible to be both well intentioned and superfluous. I plead guilty on both counts, and beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 482, in

schedule 7, page 204, line 43, at end insert—

'( ) Any reduction required to be made under paragraph 25 (compensation cap) must be made before determining the amount of a person's periodic compensation which may be commuted under this paragraph.'.

No. 483, in

schedule 7, page 205, line 42, leave out paragraph 25 and insert—

'25 (1) Where—

(a) a person becomes entitled to relevant compensation in respect of a benefit (''benefit A'') under the scheme, and

(b) sub-paragraph (2)(a) or (b) applies,

the amount of the compensation must be restricted in accordance with sub-paragraph (3).

(2) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)—

(a) this paragraph applies if—

(i) the annual value of benefit A exceeds the compensation cap, and

(ii) paragraph (b)(i) does not apply, and

(b) this paragraph applies if—

(i) at the same time as the person becomes entitled to relevant compensation in respect of benefit A he also becomes entitled to relevant compensation in respect of one or more other benefits under the scheme or a connected occupational pension scheme (''benefit or benefits B''), and

(ii) the aggregate of the annual values of benefit A and benefit or benefits B exceeds the compensation cap.

(3) Where the relevant compensation in respect of benefit A is required to be restricted in accordance with this sub-paragraph—

(a) if that compensation is within sub-paragraph (4)(a), the protected pension rate for the purposes of paragraph 3(3)(a) is the cap fraction of the rate determined in accordance with paragraph 3(5),

(b) if that compensation is within sub-paragraph (4)(b), the protected notional pension for the purposes of paragraph 11(3)(a) is the cap fraction of the rate determined in accordance with paragraph 11(4);

(c) if that compensation is within sub-paragraph (4)(c), the protected amount for the purposes of paragraph 14(3) is the cap fraction of the amount determined in accordance with paragraph 14(3A);

(d) if that compensation is within sub-paragraph (4)(d), the protected pension rate for the purposes of paragraph 15(3)(a) is the cap fraction of the rate determined in accordance with paragraph 15(4);

(e) if that compensation is within sub-paragraph (4)(e), the protected amount for the purposes of paragraph 19(3) is the cap fraction of the amount determined in accordance with paragraph 19(3A).

(4) For the purposes of this paragraph ''relevant compensation'' means—

(a) periodic compensation under paragraph 3 (in a case to which sub-paragraph (7) of that paragraph applies),

(b) periodic compensation under paragraph 11,

(c) compensation under paragraph 14,

(d) periodic compensation under paragraph 15, or

(e) compensation under paragraph 19.

(5) For the purposes of this paragraph, ''the cap fraction'' means—