Clause 85

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 19th February 2008.

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Creation of pension compensation debits and credits

Amendment made: No. 170, in clause 85, page 40, line 18, after ‘order’ insert ‘or provision’.—[Mr. Mike O'Brien.]

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

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

I have some queries, but I am sure that now the Minister is back on his home territory of English law he will have no difficulty in answering them. These issues are mainly to do with the business of the cash equivalent. Perhaps I can deal with clauses 85 and 86 rather than raising points regarding clause 86 specifically.

According to clause 86, regulations are yet again to be made for the calculation and verification by the board of the cash equivalent. May I ask the Minister, perhaps with growing plaintiveness, whether there is the slightest prospect of these draft regulations, or any draft regulations, being available to the Committee as we plough through our proceedings? For example, it is pretty well nigh impossible to make any judgment about how clause 85 is going to work without seeing the draft regulations. This might be a useful opportunity for the Minister to give us a reality check on where we are with all the other draft regulations under this Bill.

May I also ask a specific question about subsection (5)? It talks about “the valuation day” being such day within the implementation period as the board may specify. Again, it would be interesting to get some concept of how such a valuation day is going to be established, and what criteria the board would use in making such a determination. Obviously, if there is a big variation in the valuation day, it could make a significant difference to the amount of compensation payable under these provisions. In my habitual spirit of constructive debate, may I ask the Minister to help me on any of those issues?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Pension Reform), Department for Work and Pensions

I am afraid that the particular regulations to which the hon. Gentleman refers are not likely to be available during the passage of the Bill, so we will have to deal with them in due course. More generally, we are seeking to bring forward regulations as soon as possible, but we do not expect regulations on many of these issues to be available during the course of the Bill. Regulations on Bills are normally drafted after the Bill has completed its progress. On particular occasions, we are able to provide drafts of regulations, but with this Bill, which is enormously complex, we believe that it is right that when regulations are brought forward, they should be available for the normal period of consultation with various stakeholder groups. That is not likely to be the case between now and June, when I hope that the Bill will complete its progress through the two Houses.

On the other issue that the hon. Gentleman raised, the valuation day is going to be set by the board. The clause provides for the rights to be valued on the valuation day, and that is just the day that the board of the PPF uses to determine the value of the rights. The board will have to take a view, and the way in which it does so will have to be set out in regulations, as will what that valuation day will be. He is quite right that that could be quite an important event for individuals, because if the valuation day is either side of a particular date, it could affect the amount of money that people are entitled to receive. However, the best way of dealing with that is by setting it out in regulations, rather than trying to deal with it in detail. The aim of the legislation is to set out parameters, and more detailed guidance will be available in regulations.

What we are doing through these clauses, in essence, is to set out a framework. This is divorce law, and divorce law is inherently there to resolve conflict. There is thus likely to be quite a lot of contesting of the detail of what that law says, so it is important that the detail is there. That means that we are setting out the skeleton framework here in legislation. In due course, we will fill that in with both regulations and guidance so that we get the level of detail required to deal with divorce conflicts. I am afraid that that will take more time.

I am sorry that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman more detail about the valuation day, but I have set out the way in which we propose to deal with it. He is right to say that it is important, but the definition of the valuation day provides scope for the board of the PPF to choose the day when the valuation will be made, provided that it falls within the implementation period. That flexibility broadly follows existing provisions on the calculation of cash equivalent values for early leavers and pension sharing.

I accept that that is a less than fulsome description of the measure, but I cannot say much more about it. A fixed valuation day might make it unnecessarily complex for the rights to be valued, for example, which is why we think that it is better—as with pension sharing—that whoever is carrying out the sharing exercise uses a convenient date during the period set out in legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 85, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 86 ordered to stand part of the Bill.