Clause 15

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 24th January 2008.

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Automatic enrolment schemes

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in clause 15, page 7, line 22, leave out ‘or to provide any information’.

We are going so fast that maybe the Committee will not have to listen to me for as long as it thought it would have to at the start of the proceedings.

The purpose of the amendment is to check that the wording in subsection (2)(b) would not prevent an employer or a personal account scheme from finding out from an employee their date of birth and national insurance number and any other relevant information that they might need to put them into the scheme. As subsection (2)(b) is worded, it would seem that the employee, bizarrely perhaps, might be able to refuse to give such information. I am sure that I am probably wrong and that the Minister will leap to show me some other part of the Bill where it states that employees can be required to give basic information about who they are, their date of birth and so on. If they could refuse to give that information it would obviously cause complications and I therefore seek the Minister’s reassurance.

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Pension Reform), Department for Work and Pensions

An employer would be able to obtain from an employee by reason of employment the sort of information that the hon. Gentleman described. The basic information about who the person is, where they live, and what their national insurance number and date of birth are is the sort of basic information that in any event ought to be in the possession of most employers. They would get that information and they would have that information.

What we seek to do, however, is to prevent a situation arising where the employer would be able to say, “Before I can automatically enrol you and get you involved in my pension scheme, you have got to give me a vast array of very detailed information about your background”. Some employees might not wish to give that information and it might be utterly irrelevant to the particular scheme. It is possible that some schemes might be created to help employers who do not wish to operate in a bona fide way with automatic enrolment.

Almost all employers would approach this in a straightforward and bona fide way. However, if there were any suggestion that employers required from an employee information that they already had, or would normally have for the purposes of employment, merely for the purposes of joining a pension scheme, we would want to ensure that they would not be able to require that additional information. I hope that with that reassurance, and the reassurance that the employer would be able to ask reasonable questions in a normal way but not be able to use requests for information to frustrate pension membership, the hon. Gentleman will feel able withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Yes, I am certainly reassured by what I have heard from the Minister about what an employer is able to find out from an employee under normal  employment law. The Minister is right to make sure that an unscrupulous employer could not ask for excessive information, which would be difficult or impossible to provide, in order to keep an employee out of the scheme. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.