Clause 49

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

Again, I am listening with care to what is being said. It is the case that in our discussions with employers’ organisations they expressed some concerns that we should not move too quickly to criminalise employers. There are sanctions here. We are going to table a Government amendment in due course which will enhance the value of our measure as a deterrent by preventing employers from being able to claim back payments or benefits given to their workers as part of any agreement that is rendered void by the clause.

At the moment our view is that keeping this in the realm of employment law presents a strong enough way of preventing employers from taking this action. We anticipate that the vast majority of employers will comply with the legislation but he is right to say that there may well be small numbers who take the view that they can breach the law. That would not be a competitive approach and is one which could do quite a bit of damage to the employers who are complying properly.

I am listening with care to what he says and interested as to how hard he is pushing this particular proposal. We have taken a view up to now that we do not want to move into the criminal law in this area. He seems to be pressing quite hard that we should move into that area. I will be interested to know whether he intends to press this new clause to a Division. It might affect my view.

He did raise a couple of other issues in relation to missed contributions and whether they would be enforced. I should tell him that any contributions that are missed would be enforced. It is the case that we would have the ability to get the employer to move into a position where they make up the missed contributions if a person ought to have been automatically enrolled and would have wanted to have been part of a pension scheme—in other words, would not have opted out. In  those circumstances, the TPR would be able to enforce the repayment of those missed contributions.