Clause 16

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

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Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Pension Reform), Department for Work and Pensions 2:15 pm, 24th January 2008

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the constructive way in which he has put the questions. He is right that more people than ever before are working internationally, travelling abroad and coming to work in this country. Both clauses 16 and 17 set out the definition of occupational and personal pension schemes. He has noted the difference between these two clauses, namely, that we take a power to specify occupational schemes based outside the EEA, but he will not that we do not do the same for personal pensions. We believe that there are sound reasons for the distinction, which I will now explain.

A key requirement of all qualifying schemes, occupational and personal, is that they must be appropriately regulated. Occupational pension schemes based in the UK are regulated through domestic law, which implements the European directive on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision—IORP. Schemes  administered within the European Economic Area, the EEA, are also regulated under the same directive, providing assurance that scheme standards and regulation are comparable to those in the UK. However, for schemes based outside the EEA there is no universal regulation that we can use as a basis for ensuring that schemes are suitable to be used for the purposes of the employer duty. Far from international law being complicated, to some extent it is non-existent or not particularly existent. There are some provisions and agreements, but of a limited nature.

So, we will have to consider the circumstances where people sign up to a foreign-based scheme—perhaps a scheme based in the United States or elsewhere, for a worker who has come over here or a worker working for an American company. We will look at those on a more individualised basis to ensure that any scheme that is used as a pension scheme is able to be used for the purposes of the employer duty and is therefore appropriately regulated.