Clause 33 - Sub-delegation

Pension Schemes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 30th October 2014.

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

Photo of Linda Riordan Linda Riordan Labour, Halifax

With this it will be convenient to take clause 34 stand part.

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

Clause 33 must win the prize for the most opaque sentence in the Bill, and that is quite a high bar. It simply says:

“Regulations under this Part may confer a discretion on a person.”

I am sure that we would all agree with that. To explain a little bit more what we are talking about here, the issue is sub-delegation. In general we are imposing duties on trustees and managers, but they may delegate their functions to others. Where regulations make provision for the methods and assumptions to be used by an actuary, for example, we leave some discretion about those matters to the actuary.

Actuarial work, as the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East said this morning, is perhaps a science, or an art, or something in between. Sometimes there are no right answers and it is appropriate for the trustees, who will not necessarily be specialist actuaries, to be allowed to delegate discretion on matters of actuarial valuation to an actuary. They cannot do that unless we give them the power to do so under clause 33. The Secretary of State makes regulations but delegates some decisions to the actuaries. We produce the regulations, but sometimes discretion is left to those on the front line such as the actuaries.

Clause 34 concerns the publication of documents. Again, transparency is critical in schemes offering collective benefits. We are trying to set out regulations about the publication of documents and those to whom they might be sent. We have to ensure that we have transparency. Part 3 of the Bill provides for a number of documents to be published with the idea that that will aid regulatory  scrutiny of schemes to the extent that they provide collective benefits. We do not believe that these provisions are controversial.

Photo of Gregg McClymont Gregg McClymont Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

They are not controversial. I just want to make an obvious observation about transparency. Disclosure is important but with pensions it must be disclosure in a form that is explicable to those who receive the information. That is not specifically about the clause, but part of the wider debate about communicating some of the complexities around collective pension schemes. I am not seeking a response from the Minister as I am sure he agrees about the importance of transparency in a form that is understandable to scheme members. I simply put it on the record that that kind of clear and simple but comprehensive information is not easily achieved.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 33 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.