Schedule 1

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of James Plaskitt James Plaskitt Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions 11:00 am, 5th February 2008

Certainly, in the long term, Keynes was dead and so were some of his ideas. We cannot put a precise number on that, as I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands. It is understood that there has not been a venture on this scale before. How long it takes to reach a point of self-financing will depend on the number of people who come into the scheme and how long they stay in it. It will also depend in part on the charging structure of the scheme. The hon. Gentleman will recall that we listened to a number of witnesses giving evidence on that subject during the introductory sittings of the Committee. No one can put a precise number on that—I do not suppose that he can and I certainly could not—but we do know that it will depend on the decisions that people make and the levels of opt-out. That is all the more reason why the design and the climate in which the scheme launches must be right.

We would like the scheme to reach the point of self-financing as soon as possible. That requires the launch and take-up to be a success and for matters such as the charging structure to be right. However, if the hon. Gentleman asks me to put a date on that, I cannot, and nor can anybody else at this time.

I appreciate hon. Members’ concerns about how participation in the scheme and the contributions to it could affect its financial position and about whether that could entail any degree of public subsidy to the scheme—how much and for how long. As I have just reiterated, it is our intention that the scheme will be self-financing in the long term, but during the phase when the scheme is being set up and for some time after the scheme accepts its first members’ contributions, its revenues will be insufficient to cover its costs. We have asked PADA to advise us on how best that shortfall in revenues may be financed in a way that balances commercial viability with low charges.

The provisions in the Bill are necessarily wide because an optimal funding solution has yet to be developed—that is what PADA is working on. It will depend on a number of things, including the costs of  setting up and running the scheme and the factors that influence the flow of revenues into the scheme, including those raised by the hon. Member for Eastbourne: the potential take-up of the scheme and how much, how regularly and for how long members contribute—the issue of persistency in contributions to which he rightly referred.