Clause 156 - Warrants

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

It will help if I speak to this clause, albeit briefly. It relates to warrants and it is important to put the Government's intention on the record.

In extreme circumstances, the board's power to gather information may be ineffective. For example, it may believe that if it asked for certain data they would be removed or destroyed. In such circumstances, there is a safeguard and the board may apply to a justice of the peace for a warrant to enter premises, using reasonable force if necessary, and to search for and take possession of documents or copies of documents.

The justice of the peace will issue a warrant only if he or she is satisfied on the basis of the information given to the board on oath that certain conditions are met. That will ensure that in extreme circumstances, when the board is being obstructed from gathering information, it can enforce compliance, which might prevent vital evidence from being destroyed. However, it is intended that the board will apply for a warrant only in the most serious of cases, such as if there is evidence to suggest that there is considerable risk of documents being altered or destroyed, or if requests for documents under clauses 153 and 154 have not been complied with. It is recognised that in the vast majority of cases, scheme trustees and other individuals will provide the information requested, which means that the powers will be used very sparingly.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 156 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 157 and 158 ordered to stand part of the Bill.