Schedule 1

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale 10:45 am, 5th February 2008

I will not detain the Committee long, but I want to make two brief points. First, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne said, the amendments were suggested by AEGON. I want to remind the Committee that the chief executive of AEGON is Mr. Otto Thoresen, on whose support the success of the measure so depends through his work on generic financial advice on which he will report in about four weeks’ time. While I thought that it might be helpful to point out that the proposals come from a good source on which the Government will rely heavily for the success, or otherwise, of the Bill, I will not labour that point.

Secondly, there is a possibility of some confusion about what is proposed in paragraph 17 of the schedule regarding the annual report, so we might be looking at two different things. We need to know—the Secretary of State and, through him, Parliament need to know—how the corporation is functioning. From my reading, that is the clear intention behind the provision and the note about it.

Amendment No. 68 would do something slightly different, albeit something extremely important that appears to be lacking in the Bill. When assessing the potential success or otherwise of the personal accounts initiative, we must have regular information about take-up, how many people opt out, persistency, levels of contributions and so on, because otherwise Parliament will be in no position to judge whether the scheme is a success. Given the cross-party consensus on the proposals, irrespective of whether the Minister accepts the amendments—one suspects that he will not—will he acknowledge that it is important for that information to be available to Parliament and the wider world so that we can make an ongoing assessment of the scheme’s success?

It will be several years down the track before the measure comes into effect, so there will be another elected Government and different Ministers in place. It is vitally important that a clear commitment is made through this Public Bill Committee process that, by one ruse or another, that kind of information will be available to Parliament and the wider world. There should be an obligation on the delivery authority to  provide that information. This is a way of flagging up the fact that, as far as I see, there is nothing in the Bill to say that that information will be published. In reality, I cannot believe that it will not be made available, but we need some reassurance about that.