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Clause 44 - Power to make consequential amendments etc

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 11th July 2013.

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

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

The Committee will be reassured that we are now on part 5 of the Bill, which is headed “Final provisions”. I am sure we will all miss our deliberations.

Under the clause, the Secretary of State or the Treasury may make consequential, supplementary or incidental amendments relating to any provision in the Bill by primary or secondary legislation. Such amendments would largely be to align existing legislation with the Bill’s provisions, so that they function as Parliament intended. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East will be pleased to hear that the power has to be exercised by affirmative order if it amends or repeals primary legislation.

To revert to our discussion about statutory instruments, I am reliably informed that more than 3,300 were laid last year, of which only a tiny fraction—some 5%—were subject to the affirmative procedure. The suggestion made earlier that we should use that procedure to add a charge to a list is therefore disproportionate, but it is only proper that changes that amend or repeal primary legislation should be subject to an affirmative order.

Whenever we pass a Bill, we identify all consequential amendments. Committee members will have noticed that schedule 12 alone amends 17 different Acts. Such a provision is necessary because, rather than having to introduce new primary legislation to make a consequential change, the clause allows us to make amendments needed for the proper operation of the Bill’s provisions,  including to ensure that they interact properly with social security and pensions law and with other Departments’ legislation.

In case the power appears to be unusual, I should add that a similar one in the Pensions Act 2008 was important in the smooth implementation of the ending of contracting out from defined contribution schemes, after operational requirements came to light late in the delivery process. That might arise again with the ending of contracting out from defined benefit schemes. Although the provision allows us to use secondary legislation to amend primary legislation—known as a Henry VIII power—we believe that it is appropriate.

I hope that I have reassured the Committee by setting out the limited circumstances in which we would seek to use such a power, and the fact that if we did so, it would be subject to the affirmative procedure. On that basis, I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 44 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.