Clause 69

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 7th February 2008.

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Photo of James Plaskitt James Plaskitt Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions 10:00 am, 7th February 2008

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire declare how possibly sheltered his life had been. It is a fact of the matter, as the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey pointed out, that there are a great many oral contracts in existence, certainly non-written formal employment contracts. As Members of Parliament we do not have formal written contracts, which is a point that we will  come to later in the Bill and I am sure that we are all looking forward to that. As the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire says, clause 69 provides an array of definitions. I will take the opportunity now to respond to his specific points about oral contracts, while fully appreciating that the amendment is of a probing nature. A contract exists when it is written down or when an individual is told by someone offering work to start work on a given date for a set rate of pay, which in itself constitutes an oral contract. In an ideal world, of course, a contract would be written so that both parties were fully aware of the terms and conditions of employment, and the majority are.

However, we know that there are people without written contracts and we do not want to exclude them from the reforms. I know the hon. Gentleman does not want to do that either. The fact that someone may not have a piece of paper does not mean that he or she is not entitled to employment rights, and those extend beyond pension issues into other employment issues. The amendments would simply enable employers to avoid the duties established in the Bill by using an oral contract in place of a written contract. Obviously, that would not be right, because these reforms are about extending workplace pension saving with a minimum employer contribution to as many individuals as possible. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is right to say that there are likely to be many in the target group with oral contracts.