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 Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Pension Reform), Department for Work and Pensions 1:15 pm, 21st February 2008

I am not sure that I entirely got the answer I was seeking about why this particular new clause is necessary. I do not think that there is any difference between my view and that of the hon. Member for Eastbourne about the need to provide a statutory override. We have already indicated, as a matter of policy, that we intend to issue regulations for consultation later this year, which will enable the override to be put in place. Given that we already have a statutory capability to introduce those provisions, I do not detect from the hon. Gentleman any convincing argument as to why we need to include it in the Bill; I would be prepared to consider it if there was one. The provision is there and we do intend to make this change; he is knocking at an open door and it is important that the statutory override is put in place.

This can be quite a complex area, as the hon. Gentleman said, so I want to ensure that when we publish the regulations we have time for the various employers’ groups and others to look at the regulations and give us their views. That is the better way forward. The new clause would not prevent us from doing that, but it is unnecessary for that purpose. I aim to have a consultation later this year to achieve what the hon. Gentleman seeks. I hope that it will then be brought into effect by Parliament, either this year or in the early part of next year, so the change that he seeks is on its way, and not even at a slower pace than that sought by the new clause. The reason we have not brought it forward so far is that we have been working on the Bill—there is a limit to the availability of parliamentary draftsmen and officials to do everything at once. I wish that such resources were unlimited, but they are not. I will seek to bring forward the changes as quickly as is reasonably possible.