Clause 61

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions 12:30 pm, 5th February 2008

This is an important aspect of the Bill. We are looking at the functions of the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority, and amendments Nos. 35 and 105 seek to clarify the relationship of PADA to chapter 1 of the Bill. Chapter 1 sets the context in which personal accounts will operate in the pensions market. It mentions occupational pensions schemes, quality requirements, tests schemes and test-scheme standards—a whole range of issues that affect the pensions market. My support for amendment No. 35 and the reason we have tabled amendment No. 105, is because we were unclear, looking at its functions and at clause 61(2)(b), why PADA should advise the Secretary of State on a range of issues for which it is not responsible.

PADA is the delivery authority that will set up personal accounts. It will then hand that over to the pension trustee. In my view, it should not take an interest and involvement in the wider area. Occupational pensions schemes are already regulated, both here and in earlier Bills. It is important that PADA’s functions are clear from the beginning. Chapter 1 sets out the overall content of pensions. It moves on to define the responsibilities of various groups. That could be the responsibilities of the Pensions Regulator—another body whose modus operandi is changed by the Bill—or those of the Secretary of State, or of PADA. PADA should not be advising the Secretary of State on the totality of chapter 1 and if we accept clause 61(2)(b), that is what we will do.

Our amendment is slightly clumsy. It seeks to remove from chapter 1 clauses 14 to 24 which, in our view, have nothing to do with the operation of PADA. They may not be the responsibility of the Pensions Regulator, or those of the Secretary of State, in terms of the operation of the pensions market. However, given that it is PADA’s responsibility to set up personal accounts, we do not believe that it should have the responsibility or possibility of giving advice to the Secretary of State on issues that are not within its responsibility. The operation of occupational pension schemes and the job of the Pensions Regulator, which are covered in chapter 1, are not issues for PADA. It has to be focused and clear. It has a job to do in a short space of time, and if it is advising the Secretary of State on everything else to do with pensions, it will not do the job that it was set up to do. That is why amendments Nos. 35 and 105 are appropriate.

We think that the clause is another example of civil servants going awry. They are trying to include everything, including the kitchen sink, but we do not believe that that is appropriate in this case.