Clause 67

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 5th February 2008.

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Winding up of the authority

Question proposed,That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions

Briefly, I have a couple of points to make. The story begins with section 23 of the 2007 Act, which as far as I could make out had a narrow winding-up provision that would arise only if a particular condition was met. That condition, in subsection (3), was that the winding up was necessary

“as a result of the abandonment or modification of any relevant proposals about personal accounts”.

We seem to be moving on, but will the Minister confirm where we are in the present clause? It seems to take winding up to a new place, removing entirely the condition in the 2007 Act, which gave only narrow reasons for the dissolution of the authority by the Secretary of State, and make it much more straightforward.

We have always said, on this Bill and the 2007 Act, that we do not think the authority and its successor body should just morph seamlessly into one another. There are different sets of skills and challenges to starting a scheme and running it later on, and perhaps a different set of personalities would be needed. We would have to review that in due course. It is worth getting clarification from the Minister that that is what the clause is intended to flag up and the basis on which a winding up would be approached.

Will the Minister also confirm what seems to be clear: that the clause will give more flexibility for transferring assets not just to the Secretary of State, which was in the 2007 Act, but to another body, presumably the successor body?

Photo of James Plaskitt James Plaskitt Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

The distinction between the two bodies that the hon. Gentleman seeks is indeed clear. As we said, the clause will make adjustments to the current winding up provisions for the authority, as previously set out in section 23 of the 2007 Act. Those provisions included a condition for the winding up of the authority to be triggered if the next legislative stage, in which we are now engaged, did not happen. Clearly, that condition will become redundant once, subject to the will of Parliament, the Bill is enacted. Clause 67 therefore removes the condition and replaces it with a straightforward provision allowing the Secretary of State, by affirmative order, to provide for the winding up of the authority.

The authority will not be responsible for running the personal accounts scheme, as the hon. gentleman rightly identifies, but will instead be responsible for delivering the scheme infrastructure and business processes. Once that infrastructure is in place, the responsibility for running the scheme will pass to a separate trustee corporation. Equally, although the authority may assist the pensions regulator in building the systems for employer compliance, the regulator will be accountable for the operation of the compliance regime. As a consequence, the clause also extends the provision for transferring, on wind-up, the property rights and liabilities of the authority to allow them to be transferred to persons other than the Secretary of State—for example, to the pensions regulator.

Finally, when the authority is dissolved, the clause makes provision for the removal from statute of the legislation contained in this Bill as it relates to the authority.

I hope that that clarifies why the clause is in the Bill. I hope that I have reassured the hon. Gentleman and that he agrees that clause 67 should stand part of the Bill.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 67 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. David.]

Adjourned at three minutes to Seven o'clock till Thursday 7 February at half-past Nine o'clock.