Pensions Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee on 20th April 2004.

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[Mr. James Cran in the Chair]

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne 9:30 am, 20th April 2004

On a point of order, Mr. Cran. First, I welcome you back to our proceedings in Committee. I hope that you had a refreshing and enjoyable Easter break, as I am sure we all did although it was marred slightly by a raft of Government new clauses and amendments that were tabled only last Thursday. I wish to flag up some issues concerning where we are with the Bill. You will know that a motion was tabled on the Floor of the House last night to extend our debates in Committee for another week and that no doubt there will be pressure to hold a meeting of the Programming Sub-Committee.

I wish to give the Minister a chance to update the Committee on where matters stand at present. The Government have dealt with section 67 simplification and consultation. They have said that other issues, such as defined contributions and limited price indexation, might be dealt with on Report. However, I wonder what else—if anything—of any significance will be proposed. I am not talking about minor drafting or consequential amendments; what amendments of any significance are likely to be tabled by the Government in Committee?

Photo of Mr James Cran Mr James Cran Conservative, Beverley and Holderness

Of course, that is not a point of order for the Chair, but doubtless those who can deal with it will respond to it.

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

Further to that point of order, Mr. Cran. Will it be helpful if I respond briefly to the hon. Gentleman's points? I wish first, however, to welcome you back to the Chair for our final sittings. Members of the Committee will be aware that, at the end of our sitting on Thursday 1 April before the recess, I outlined the amendments that we planned to table for discussion in Committee. I am sorry that we were unable to table all the amendments during the recess, but we have been considering our plans. The Committee will note that some of the new clauses are on the amendment paper and, subject to progress, we may reach some of them today. After the bank holiday, we sent a briefing note to hon. Members about the new clause that will amend section 67 of the Pensions Act 1995. As they are aware, it deals with the modification of accrued rights.

However, I understand that some confusion arose about the briefing note on the new clauses that deal with the requirement for employers to consult on future pension changes, so we sent out again a briefing note about it last night. An explanation of new clause 33, entitled ''Increase in age at which short service benefit must be payable'', will be available at the end of this morning's sitting. The other amendments that have been tabled are self-

explanatory. I must apologise to you, Mr. Cran, and to members of the Committee for the delay in tabling the new clauses and for any confusion concerning the distribution of briefing notes. No discourtesy was intended, as no one gains if a Committee has insufficient detail on which to judge its scrutiny.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

Further to that point of order, Mr. Cran. I am sure that my proposal will be of assistance to you and the Committee. Yet again, the curse of the briefing note has kicked into our proceedings. I have not seen either of the briefing notes to which the Minister referred. I have been trying with a wet towel around my head to understand the section 67 stuff, which I doubt we will reach today. However, it would be nice to know the thinking behind it.

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

Further to that point of order, Mr. Cran. I apologise again if briefing notes have not got through. I think that the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) received the information and I know that those in my office were telephoning the office of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) to see how we could best get information to him during what was inevitably a difficult period over the Easter holiday.Clause 167 Meaning of ''reviewable matters''