Clause 49

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 31st January 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Pension Reform), Department for Work and Pensions 10:00 am, 31st January 2008

I share the concerns of the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire and the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey; Inverness and points beyond. Actually, there are no points beyond, are there? Points around. Our view is that we are better off dealing with this stage of the problem, at least, in employment contractual terms, rather than by criminalising the employer. It is, perhaps, an odd situation when a Labour Government are saying, “Let’s not criminalise the employers”, and the Conservatives are saying we should. We have looked at this with a lot of care. The way we have set about this will provide a significant degree of protection. If there is, of course, an employer who continues despite warnings and despite the intervention of the regulator, the TPR, saying to the employer you have got to start now properly enrolling people, complying with your obligations, fulfilling the purposes of this legislation, then there would be a criminal sanction if the employer continued to be in breach.

At the particular point at which inducements are offered at the start of the employment, our view is that this can be dealt with by a series of employment-related penalties that have a financial consequence for the employer but do not result in them in ending up in criminal courts. That is basically the way in which we want to deal with it.

I hear what the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire says. He is right to identify the issue of inducements as a very serious one. He is right, as is the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, to indicate that the TUC, the EEF and other organisations are concerned about this area. I  think we are best dealing with it in the employment relationship but I am listening with care to what Members opposite are saying.