Clause 153 - Notices requiring provision of information

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 1st April 2004.

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

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I have some legitimate concerns about the extent of the clause's provisions. Subsection (2)(b) is about notices being given by the board and also by

''a person authorised by the Board for the purposes of this section in relation to the scheme.''

What kind of people will they be? There is an issue with paragraph (b), which refers to professional advisers

''in relation to the scheme''.

To what extent are they covered by professional privilege?

An interesting point has been raised with me. Clause 234 deals with information given to a professional legal adviser—a term covering solicitors and barristers, and their equivalents in Scotland. Is it also intended to cover anyone appointed under section 47(1) of the 1995 Act? If that is the intention, it will bring into the provision some non-lawyers, such as firms of benefit consultants, who may, out of an abundance of caution, have been appointed as legal advisers for section 47 purposes. That counts as an unintended consequence, but it is a specific issue that must be addressed.

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

Clause 153 should be viewed in conjunction with the other PPF information-gathering provisions, which will enable the board to gather the data that it will need to carry out its functions. Under the clause, individuals involved with a scheme will be required to disclose information that is relevant to that scheme on notice in writing from the PPF, or someone acting on its behalf. Other people who are authorised might include actuaries or a property expert. The notice must specify what information is required and how it must be produced, including the time limit for its production. As always, the board may only gather information that is relevant to its functions. This power is targeted at gathering information during the assessment period. For example, in order to carry out its valuation, the board may wish to ask the employer to provide information that is necessary to calculate individual entitlement.

Because the matter emerged earlier in our proceedings, I should like to confirm that legal professional privilege will not be breached. That is set out in clause 234.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 153 ordered to stand part of the Bill.