Clause 237 - Breach of regulations

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 22nd April 2004.

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

Photo of Mr Chris Pond Mr Chris Pond Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

Good morning, Mr. Griffiths; I thought that I had better say something this morning.

Clause 237 provides that civil penalties and criminal offences provided for in the 1995 Act apply to regulations made under this Bill in the same way as they apply to regulations made under the 1995 Act. The penalties concerned are those under subsections (3) to (9) of section 10 of the 1995 Act: in other words,

penalties of up to £5,000 for individuals and up to £50,000 in all other cases. The criminal offences are those provided for by section 116 of the 1995 Act, which gives a power to provide that contravention of regulations is an offence. The clause means that regulations made under the Bill that impose an obligation on someone can provide that a breach of that obligation is either a criminal offence, or exposes the person who is in breach of the obligation to a civil penalty.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I knew that the little devil was in there somewhere.

I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for clarifying that point—although in effect, it had already been clarified by the hon. Member for Northavon. May I underline a point that I made in an earlier debate? If we are going to impose not insignificant civil penalties, it is important—certainly in relation to the consultation process on changes to pension schemes—that the employers' organisations sign up to the concept, because by definition they represent the better employers. That should be recognised. The discussion may be academic, because the Committee, and in particular, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Anniesland, have teased out the fact that ''consultation'' means no more than that. Apparently, the employer does not have to take a blind bit of notice of what the employees think about a particular proposal. That is box ticking at its worst. I hope that the Government will not trumpet the provisions about consultation too loudly if there is no beef in them, because the employer is perfectly at liberty to take no notice of what is said.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 237 ordered to stand part of the Bill.