Master Trust schemes: definition

Part of Pension Schemes Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 7th February 2017.

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Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 9:45 am, 7th February 2017

My hon. Friend makes a good point. That is very common in other systems of regulation, sometimes to the chagrin of employers and people involved, but for many companies in other financial fields there are different systems of regulation for the different products they offer. That is not uncommon. As to what we must avoid, the hon. Member for Stockton North will accept that Governments must try to think how things work in practice, which is not to say that he has not considered it. However, we must have workshops of interested parties and consult widely. How things work in practice is important.

The end product for all hon. Members is predominantly consumer protection—the Bill is a consumer protection Bill. We have different views, but we are discussing the extent of consumer protection provided. I and my officials have considered Opposition amendments respectfully. They are not spurious and have been thought through. In fact, many were quite properly put to us—it is a democratic system—by groups such as the Association of British Insurers. They are not created out of thin air. However, we have had to think about whether in practice they will add to consumer protection. That is the test. Alternatively, will they just increase the regulatory burden? We have also been lobbied about that—again, quite legitimately—by those concerned. It is the Government’s job to try to come up with something in the middle.

My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley, who tabled amendment 32, discussed self-employed people, and attempted to ensure that I have in fact read the Bill. I do not think I should have the arrogance to stand here if I had not, but it is perfectly proper that he should ask. I certainly accept that my hon. Friend, given his years of experience and attention to detail, has read it. I shall try to answer his general and specific points.

On the question of the role of self-employed people, not just in the master trust schemes but generally, my hon. Friend is correct to identify that the number of self-employed people has grown exponentially in the past 10 to 20 years, even more than in the days of the Turner commission, of which Baroness Drake was a member. She has been most helpful with the Bill. I acknowledge her role and that of Lord McKenzie in helping both the Opposition and the Government very constructively.

The commission perceived self-employed people as those with their own business, who, by implication, would have an accountant or, at least, an advisor or someone similar. My hon. Friend was saying that, with the big growth in self-employment over the period, the people in question are typically not very high earners. Like him, I make no comment as to whether they should be self-employed—the fact is that legally they are. They do not have an accountant and the things necessary for someone who is running a business and employing people despite being self-employed. They are at the moment outwith the auto-enrolment scheme. I know we are here to discuss that from a regulatory point of view but, as politicians, we also want those people to have pensions, because the House agrees that that is a good thing.

I want to answer the hon. Member, who is going to be cross with me again, for Loch—