Clause 9 - Pensions promise obtained from third party

Part of Pension Schemes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 28th October 2014.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 11:00 am, 28th October 2014

These are clearly big issues that have been raised by, among others, the Select Committee, and they were raised on Second Reading. It is a perfectly sensible discussion to have. Is it the appropriate regulatory framework, and do we need two or one? Where we have two regulators there are two issues. There is overlap, duplication and gaps. We work very hard—the two regulators work very hard—to co-ordinate. In all the work we have been doing on charge caps, for example, we have needed DWP legislation to deal with trust-based occupational schemes and we have needed mirroring FCA activity to deal with contract-based schemes. As I think I observed on Second Reading, it would have been easier to deal with one body rather than two, and that is not surprising.

My consistent view has been that now is not the time to start reorganising regulators again. The FCA was set up only a couple of years ago. We are in the middle of the roll-out of automatic enrolment. In my judgment, throwing all that up in the air and coming up with a new regulatory framework right now would not feel right. There is a process of triennial reviews of arm’s-length bodies in our Department. We have just concluded the review of TPR. There were some minor operational things, but broadly the status quo was fine for now. As the roll-out of auto-enrolment concludes when the next three-yearly review is up, that would be a logical point to look at this again.

My only hesitation is that, whether we have one brand or two, or one building or two, most of the same issues are still there. In other words, we still need a regulator that understands employers and the issues for sponsoring employers, and understands funding and the implications of recovery plans for the sustainable growth of the employer and so on. We need a regulator that can do compliance on, for example, auto-enrolment—like minimum wage compliance—and can make sure that that happens. We also need a regulator that can do the things the FCA does, which regulates the sale of financial products in the insurance industry. That whole range of skills will still be needed. Indeed, we would still need a set of rules for trust-based schemes and contract-based schemes, because they are different types of thing.

Even if it was one organisation doing it, we would still be amending different bits of legislation. Whether we did it under one Government Department or two, it would be up for grabs. From a co-ordination point of view, I can see the potential benefits of having one organisation and not two, but I do not think it is a silver bullet. There would still be issues of overlap and gaps, and the different skill sets would still be needed. I know our deliberations may be followed by those who work for one of the regulators. My message to them would be that each, regardless of the banner under which they operate, has a vital role to play, and in any future structure one would envisage that they still played it. Certainly, for now, I would not envisage any change, but I think it is something that the next Government will probably want to look at. I hope that that is a constructive response to the hon. Gentleman.