Clause 53

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 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 3:00 pm, 31st January 2008

I have considerable sympathy for some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. He identifies the three key issues we are discussing: the £3,600 annual cap, the transfers in and out and the lifetime investment that people might make.

Our view is that transfers in and out should not be allowed at this time, but he will be aware from my evidence to the Committee that I have some sympathy for this idea in terms of small pots. Let us look at it after 2017, at a more appropriate time when we have reassured the industry—particularly the insurance-based, but also the trust-based pensions industry—that people will not transfer significant sums from one pension fund to another. At that time, the Minister and hon. Members can take a view on whether it is appropriate to allow small pots to be transferred in and out of personal accounts. Tim Jones indicated that there were some benefits in doing that but there is a need at this point to keep a level of reassurance for the industry and that would help with our aim of preventing levelling down, which is an important concern for all Committee members.

There has been lively debate for some time around the lifetime limit. There are strong views on both sides. I do not propose to close that debate down now. I hope that, in due course, a wider consensus will emerge. We certainly do not have that now. Closing down the debate on the £10,000 limit at this time would not be the right way forward.