Clause 45

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 31st January 2008.

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Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Pension Reform), Department for Work and Pensions 9:45 am, 31st January 2008

The hon. Gentleman makes extremely good points and I share his concern. We need to provide reassurance to the pensions industry that the excellent work done by the Pensions Regulator, in the role that it has adopted up to now of giving greater confidence regarding pensions, will continue unabated, and that the new work that it will take on to ensure that automatic enrolment is carried out will be properly done in addition to its current work, rather than distracting from that. It would be tragic if there were any serious distraction from that important existing role. I have had meetings with the regulator’s senior management, who are confident that they will be able to carry out their new duties and maintain the quality of work that they have done up to now in protecting and overseeing the pensions system as a whole. The objective of the new changes to which the hon. Gentleman refers is to give a number of different obligations to the regulator. Basically, the changes are designed to ensure that employers comply with their new duties. The key duties are automatically enrolling eligible qualifying jobholders into a qualifying pension scheme; informing the regulator about how they satisfy that duty; and paying pension contributions to the schemes.

The work that the regulator will do on such matters should not be unduly onerous—it will basically be collecting and managing data—but there should be intervention when there is a failure to comply with the requirements of the Bill. The Pensions Regulator will discuss such issues as resources with us in the coming months. I am not going to write any blank cheques, but I have given assurances that I do not want the Pensions Regulator to be distracted from its current role. I want to ensure that the regulator has the appropriate resources to enable it to perform its new role, without causing any difficulty in the old role.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for enabling me to give such resources. I share his concerns and objectives and hope that we will be able to create the new role for the regulator in a way that means that there is just as much confidence in that new role as has been gained in the old one.