New Clause 7

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 21st February 2008.

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Role of the Information Commissioner

‘(1) The Information Commissioner shall have full jurisdiction over the workings of the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority and the Pensions Regulator.

(2) The Secretary of State must prepare, and keep under review, a code of practice with respect to the disclosure of information relating to pensions by public authorities.

(3) Before preparing or altering the code, the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) any specified public authority;

(b) the Information Commissioner; and

(c) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(4) A public authority must have regard to the code in (or in connection with) disclosing information relating to pensions.

(5) Nothing in this section applies in relation to any disclosure by a relevant public authority of information whose subject-matter is a matter about which provision would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament if it were included in an Act of the Scottish Parliament.

(6) The Secretary of State must—

(a) lay a copy of the code, and of any alterations to it, before Parliament; and

(b) from time to time publish the code as for the time being in force.’.—[Paul Rowen.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause is about the role of the Information Commissioner. It would enshrine in the Bill the commissioner’s role and give him full jurisdiction over the workings of the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority and the Pensions Regulator. So that that power could properly be exercised, it would also require the Secretary of State to prepare and keep under review a code of practice setting out the information about pensions that could be disclosed by those and other authorities. Before that code was introduced, the Secretary of State would have to consult public bodies, including the Information  Commissioner, and people in the pensions industry whom he deemed appropriate.

The code of practice would state which information about pensions could be disclosed, which is important. In recent months, we have seen the appalling way in which personal data have been mislaid by public authorities or not properly encrypted when sent out—the Department for Work and Pensions has been perhaps the greatest culprit—and the careless way in which huge chunks of personal information have gone missing. In recent months, hardly a week has gone by without one or other area of government losing personal information.

When the initial loss of Child Support Agency child benefit details was announced, the Prime Minister agreed at Prime Minister’s questions that the role of the Information Commissioner needed to be expanded. Yet another review has been set up to examine that role, which is vital because we cannot have sensitive personal information being treated as it has been by the DWP and other Departments.

The Bill will increase considerably the number of people in pension schemes. Perhaps up to 6 million people will be signed up to personal accounts, and they will be individuals who have not been saving in pension schemes in the past. The information will be held by a public body, and we believe that it is important—

It being twenty-five minutes past Ten o’clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at One o’clock.