Schedule 1

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions 11:15 am, 5th February 2008

I do not know whether those who drafted the schedule were trying to do the usual civil servant catch-all and include all possibilities in which money or assistance might be sought. That is one possible interpretation of the word “grants”. It is important that, given the Minister’s earlier comments, we have clarification of what the trust board should do. There is one circumstance and one circumstance only where it is proper that the Government can give grants, although I am not sure that those should be to the trust board. We had an earlier discussion about advice and information and provision for that. Looking at schedule 1, I do not see it as being the responsibility of the trust board to provide that information. However, it is legitimate for that sort of information to be provided with some form of Government subsidy or advice alongside the range of other financial advice available through Citizens Advice or whatever. That is a separate issue to schedule 1, which deals with the trust board.

Again, I agree with the hon. Member for Eastbourne: if we are setting this up, we should state clearly from the beginning that there is no subsidy and that any loans granted will be paid back. We must know the terms on which those loans will be granted. Unless it is a usual civil service catch-all, I see no need to include the possibility of obtaining finance for including the word “grant”. If the trust board administers the funds and invests them to ensure a return on someone’s pension, it should operate, as should every scheme, with its costs fully covered. In this case, as it is not an occupational pension scheme, it must be covered through the charges that it makes.