Clause 50

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:15 pm 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 1:15 pm, 31st January 2008

It is important to get personal accounts right—that includes to deliver it on time—but a prudent manager will recognise that events are something, as Harold Macmillan mentioned, that are not always in the control of those who would wish to have them under control. The policy intention is that the personal accounts should be delivered in 2012, and nothing we are aware of at this point would prevent that from happening. That has not changed. I had not tied myself down to April of 2012, but it does seem to be a reasonable date as a target to launch it on. But it may well be that for other reasons there are other times of the year that might be more appropriate. But as far as we are concerned, there is nothing we know that would prevent a 2012 launch.

So that is what we are aiming at; that is what we expect to hit, and Tim Jones has been brought from the private sector in order to ensure that we have a senior executive who is able to deliver a project of this kind on time, on budget, and to enable it to create the mechanisms to deliver personal accounts, bearing in mind that PADA itself will not deliver personal accounts, bearing in mind that PADA itself will not deliver personal accounts. I can give that reassurance.

Tim Jones has a background which has not involved having to weather the uncertain waters of politics, or politicians’ ability to salami-slice words—or, indeed, journalists’ encouragement of what appear to be innocuous comments which are then repeatedly referred to in Parliament. I agree that Paul Lewis is an estimable journalist who does indeed know how to do an interview and get a story, as he did on this occasion. Tim Jones has, however, assured me that he knows of nothing that would stop him from delivering in 2012, and he fully intends to see that that happens. I hope I can reassure the hon. Gentlemen on that point.

The reason I do not want the amendment in the Bill is that we have not fixed on 1 April 2012 as a precise date. That is a reasonable target date for the moment, but it may be better, for all sorts of reasons, including presentation of better dates, to move it a month or two one way or the other. We are still targeting 2012. That is when we expect to deliver, but I do not want to enshrine that in the Bill. Primary legislation is not the place to set out precise dates for implementation of reforms. It is the place to set out the principles of a reform and the approach to reform, and it is only sensible to retain some flexibility in the start date. Who knows what might happen over the next four years, or how the pensions landscape may change?