New Clause 19

Part of Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:15 pm on 21st February 2008.

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Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions 1:15 pm, 21st February 2008

The obvious riposte to that is to ask the Minister why he has not brought forward regulations, draft or otherwise. The NAPF accepts what the Government are saying in principle, but it thinks that we should send a strong message to industry and sponsoring employers that this is possible. I do not want to get into this too deeply, but there are wider issues about sections 67 and 68 of the 1995 Act. The Department’s view has been that those sections do not bar pensions schemes from doing this, that or the other. In fact, on the basis of legal advice, which as we all know is rarely black or white, many employers have often felt that they are not allowed by those sections to do certain things. We will return later to those issues, particularly in relation to section 67. We still think that it is worth proceeding with the new clause but if, when he comes to speak substantively on this, the Minister can confirm that these regulations are about to hit an unsuspecting world, I might take a more charitable view on pressing the new clause.

Any decisions regarding changes to scheme rules would still be subject to mutual agreement by the employer and the scheme trustees and the changes would only affect pension rights accrued in the future, not those earned in the past. That is a chunk of consensus that is now accepted on all sides. It emerges from Sweeney and Lewin that accrued rights should not be tampered with. On that basis, I commend the new clause to the Committee.