New Clause 13 - Scale of pension schemes

Part of Pension Schemes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 4th November 2014.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 3:15 pm, 4th November 2014

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his ever colourful analogies, which did not appear in my briefing pack. He is quite right: the idea that we have forced marriages, to extend his metaphor, but I will not take it too far—we might call them shotgun weddings—does not seem the right approach to regulation. There is a danger in confusing means and ends. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East is focused on the means: scale is good, so we have to make things big. We are focused on the ends: we want good  quality, low-cost, well governed schemes; we are requiring schemes to be all those things. They might do it and be small, and that enables them to be bespoke.

Perhaps a firm would want a relatively small scheme, bespoke and tailored to the needs of their particular employees. The hon. Gentleman might say no to that, because the regulator might say they have to marry somebody else, because they are not big enough and they do not approve; but, beyond the limits of auto-enrolment, occupational pension provision is voluntary. Firms do not have to do such things at all, beyond the legal minimum, so where they do, they often do it for a reason. They provide schemes to meet the needs of their employees, and it seems to us that they should have the freedom, within the constraints of value for money, governance and costs, to do so at an appropriate scale. The regime we are putting in place is leading to consolidation and will do so further, and we welcome that. We do not believe it is right to force consolidation on unwilling schemes that are delivering value for money, governance and cost.