Schedule 1

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale 11:45 am, 5th February 2008

Given the long experience that you and I have had of serving on Standing and Public Bill Committees, Sir Nicholas, we know that as we discuss amendments, there is sometimes a sense that we should have worded them slightly differently. I have that sense with regard to amendment No. 43. I am sure that the Minister will give us a robust argument on what it would achieve, which would be a straitjacket of no more than 0.3 per cent. initially. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne that that is no more clearly defined than “long term”, but that is a joke between us. The wording that I might have alighted on would have been a target of 0.3 per cent. We are trying to elicit confirmation from the Minister that that is the target.

That said, I have grave doubts. I share the ABI’s view about whether that 0.3 per cent. is deliverable—the figure is much more likely to be around 0.5 per cent. We must also bear in mind that the stakeholder pension initiative failed because the Government insisted on the straitjacket of 1.1 per cent. of charges. That involved, potentially, the giving of advice, whereas with this arrangement there will be not advice, but information.

My hon. Friend referred to the Thoresen report, and I suspect that we are likely to see from the report, in about four or five weeks’ time, the introduction of a new word: “guidance”. That is not advice. That means that people will not have to be remunerated for giving an explanation to people who automatically enrol, which is the fundamental difference. That is why it is certainly possible—it should be achievable—for the management charges of this scheme to be significantly less than for stakeholder pensions. We need a clearer understanding of the Government’s expectation on record, and I am sure that the Minister will want to take the opportunity to enlighten the Committee further on that point.

While amendment No. 61 is a probing amendment, we need a clear statement from the Government that they expect PADA to make charges for the services that it provides. The wording of the Bill does not provide that commitment. However, there might be something that PADA wishes to do in the future for which it does not wish to make a charge, but for which, if we had the wording proposed in the amendment, it would have to make a charge.

One of the delights of being in Committee is that arguments flow back and forth. We seek the real substance of the Government’s intention. It is absolutely vital that PADA is obliged to make charges, but I can foresee circumstances in which something that they might wish to do would not necessarily involve making a charge. This is an important aspect of the Bill. I will not comment on the other amendment in the group, but I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to try to give us further enlightenment on these two important matters.