Clause 30 - Short title

Pensions Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 14 July 2011.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 3:45, 14 July 2011

I beg to move amendment 15, in clause 30, page 19, line 20, leave out subsection (2).

We are very much on the home straight. Members will know that amendment 15 removes what is called the privilege amendment, which was inserted in the Bill because it started in the House of Lords. It is normal practice to put the privilege amendment into the Bill in the Lords and to withdraw it in the Commons.

Amendment 15 agreed to.

Clause 30, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

On a point of order, Miss Clark. I will take this opportunity to say some words of thanks. First, I thank you and Mr Brady. We know that it has not been a good time for him. We are grateful for our chance to serve under you and for your generous chairing, which has allowed some broad discussions, which is very much the point of the Committee. We had another two sittings available to us on Tuesday, if anyone had wanted to raise any other issues, but we have not been taken up on that. We have, however, had a full and thorough discussion on the key points of division between us, as well as on the common ground. It is appropriate that we ended on some common ground on socially responsible investment. There are a number of issues where we have found common cause.

I want to thank those who put the Bill together—the many unseen officials, some of whom are with us and some of whom are not, including the specialist lawyers who write the legislation and the officials for whom every one of these clauses is a labour of love. It is astonishing for me, as a Minister doing his first Bill, to see how much work goes on behind the scenes to produce an Act of Parliament. I am enormously grateful to the officials and the experts who have put this together, not least for those who have thrown paper aeroplanes with answers to difficult questions at the relevant moment.

I want to thank the members of the Committee. I am grateful for the input of coalition Government Members, because they have a lot of expertise. Many of my hon. Friends have written to me about important issues and have shared their insights with me in discussion and have intervened during the course of the debate. I am grateful to them. Their commendable restraint means that we might get to go home. I am also grateful to the invisible Whip, who has used her characteristic charm to get us through on time.

I am also grateful to Opposition Members. They have raised some important issues. We have heard a lot about their family members. I feel like I almost know the mum of the hon. Member for Islwyn. He has not followed up on his offer to send me her date of birth, but I would happily send her a birthday card if we get there. We heard about the sister of the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead, who I hope will have been forgiven for her indiscretions. We heard about the son of the hon. Member for Edinburgh East, who we have been assured is not a layabout. He has been working hard; he just does not have much of a pension yet. We heard about the mum of the hon. Member for Leeds West. A little bit of me wishes she was not born in spring 1954.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

The process has been valuable. I thank Back-Bench Opposition Members, too. They have had the greater freedom to raise special issues, table new clauses and draw attention to important matters. I was interested to learn of the professional background of several members of the Committee, such as the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead and her tax expertise, and the fact that the hon. Member for Islwyn used to have a shiny suit and sell pensions. We now understand matters a lot better.

As for the unseen hands who help the work of the Committee, we are obviously grateful to the Clerk to the Committee who has seen us through our processes,  as we are to the Hansard writers who might have struggled occasionally to keep up with the flow of pensions jargon, but who coped very well. I thank the police officers who have helped us and, on occasion, the work experience people; I am sure that one or two of them who came into the room were under age. We will resume our debates on the Bill in the autumn, but on a personal note I join my hon. Friends in wishing the hon. Member for Leeds West well in her preparations for her wedding later in the summer. I give her our best wishes.

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am pleased to finish a day early, so that I can devote my time to wedding cakes and flower arranging, which are my main pursuits when I am not considering state pension age and fiduciary duties. I thank Mr Brady and Miss Clark for their excellent chairing of the Committee. This is my first Committee, and I have much appreciated their patience and support during the past two weeks. I also thank Ms Toft, the other Clerks to the Committee, the Doorkeepers and the officials. I might not agree with all of their labours of love, but I recognise the work that goes into putting together a Bill.

I want to thank those groups that have sent briefings to the Opposition. We do not have people passing us pieces of paper, so it is useful that FairPensions, Age UK, Saga, the National Association of Pension Funds, the Federation of Small Businesses and many others have briefed us so well ahead of our sittings. I thank Government Members. The hon. Member for High Peak spoke about small businesses and the difference that his experience of visiting NEST has made. The hon. Member for Eastbourne spoke about his hope and expectation of the Minister coming forward with support for 500,000 women—Mrs Reeves, included. I thank him for his expectation and hope that it will be fulfilled. The hon. Member for Reading West has certainly stretched the field of debate. If his questions have not all been germane, they have been of interest to the Committee.

As for members of the Opposition, I thank my Whip who has made sure that we have all been present and, by and large, have voted the right way. I also thank her for her contributions to the debate on the state pension age. As a Whip, she did not have the opportunity to speak on Second Reading, but she has more than made up for that in Committee. It took a lot of arm-twisting for my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North to become a member of the Committee, but I am glad that it paid off. We are unanimous about his contributions not only on NEST, but longevity and the Pension Protection Fund, which he has done much to support, as well as for reminding us when we become close to elevenses that it is time to break and eat the Five Boys chocolate bar to which we have all looked forward.

I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh East and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun for their contributions to the debate on fiduciary duties as well as on auto-enrolment and women affected by the state pension age. I should not forget the hon. Member for Arfon. He is not in Committee at the moment, but his contribution to the debate on carers brought much value to our proceedings. Like the Minister, I feel that I know members of the family of the hon. Member for Islwyn extremely well. If they are ever in Parliament, we  might even recognise them. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead has probably tabled more amendments than the rest of us put together, so I give her huge thanks for raising the important issues of auto-enrolment and pension credits.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, accordingly to be reported.

Committee rose.