With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment 32, in clause 1, page 1, line 12, at end insert—
‘(1A) The definition of a Master Trust Scheme shall include such schemes that provide benefits to members who are self-employed in addition to those who are employed by others.”
This amendment will ensure that master trust schemes that also allow self-employed members to join are within cover by the regulation introduced by this Bill.
Amendment 23, in clause 1, page 1, line 13, leave out subsection (2).
To clarify the protection provided under this Bill for non-money purchase benefits.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell, and I am sure it will continue to be so throughout this Committee stage.
Before I get into detail of Labour’s first tabled amendments, 22 and 23, it might be helpful if I set out how we plan to approach Committee stage. As I said on Second Reading, we broadly support what the Bill seeks to do, but we have serious concerns about what the Bill does not seek to do, the issues in the pensions landscape that it fails to address, and the significant sections of policy detail pushed into secondary legislation.
I note that my new clause 5, which is designed to introduce pension credit for women born in the 1950s and whose retirement age has been accelerated, has not been selected. I say only that it is lamentable that the Bill is not broader. I am also concerned about the dependency on secondary legislation because the Government are not yet in a position to share the detail of their intentions. I know that not everything can be in the Bill, but the Constitution Committee wrote to the Government expressing strong concern about the lack of information provided in primary legislation. I hope that the Government will take the Select Committee’s caution seriously and that we can ensure that in this case the primary legislation properly sets out the Government’s intentions.
Amendment 22 raises the question why single-employer occupational schemes are excluded from the scope of the Bill and why connected employers are therefore effectively treated as a separate entity. As it stands, the Bill’s provisions regulate neither single nor connected employer arrangements. We appreciate that a line must be drawn somewhere in attempting to develop a suitable regulatory framework in the face of a wide array of occupational pension arrangements. The amendment offers the Government the opportunity to clarify the bounds of their new regulatory environment and to justify their decision to draw the boundaries where they lie in the Bill. We want the parameters of the regulatory framework to be clear.
We accept that the master trust regime is focused on schemes with particular risks, but does there not have to be consistency across the piece? The definition of a master trust covers an array of different arrangements and there is nothing simple about it—getting my head around it has taken me some time. It can cover schemes set up by unregulated businesses as well as those set up by regulated businesses, such as insurance companies or investment managers. It can also cover what are described as “white label” master trusts, which are set up by a pension providers, with commercial or non-commercial partners being allowed to brand their sections of the trust. Others may have partnering arrangements with large employers whereby each employer gets its own section of the master trust but does not make any profit from it. Schemes that are included can be industrywide, can include two or more unassociated companies, and can be in the university, charitable and religious sectors. Given the broad range of different situations, on what basis do the Government believe that it is appropriate to draw the line to exclude single unconnected employer arrangements?
The probing amendment would also delete from the definition of a master trust the exclusion of those schemes that are to be used only by connected employers. In the debate in the other place, I believe the Minister clarified that when a single group employer takes on a non-associated one and it is intended that all will participate in the scheme, the scheme will then fall under the regime. Will the Government confirm that that remains the case?
It would also be good to have further clarification of what the position would be when a joint venture has run its course and the scheme reverts to being used only by connected employers. In that instance, how do the Government justify the juxtaposition of a connected group of employers being outside the scope of the Bill whereas another connected group of similar size but with just one small associated employer would presumably be inside it? The distinguishing line is very thin.
Do the Government envisage circumstances in which clause 41 would be used to bring within the scope of the Bill a single employer occupational pension scheme? Clearly, the Bill provides that power to the Secretary of State. In fact, the power set out in the Bill is very broad, so I look forward to the Minister’s response on those issues.
I note that in amendment 32, the hon. Member for Amber Valley has sought to address the lack of access for self-employed people. I picked up that theme in new clause 4, which addresses both that and other groups currently excluded from master trust scheme membership. I look forward to the hon. Gentleman’s speech.
Amendment 23 is a probing amendment to elicit clarification regarding what happens Bill to non-money purchase benefits in master trusts. Clause 1(1)(a), taken together with other clauses, means that the Bill applies only to money purchase benefits provided through a master trust and excludes non-money purchase benefits. As I am sure the Minister is aware, the exclusion of non-money purchase benefits would mean that members’ benefits provided by those schemes, including retirement products, are excluded from key protections in the Bill. That does not seem fair or sensible, given the Bill’s intention to provide stronger protection for scheme members.
Master trusts currently provide a range of services both to employers under auto-enrolment and to individuals exercising pension freedoms. Those can include annuities, guaranteed drawdown and investment products, which include some form of guaranteed rate of return. One example could be when annuity payments are paid to the member while the annuity supporting those payments may be held as an asset of the scheme, rather than in the name of the member. Pension freedoms are beginning to transform the market radically for guaranteed income products, but pension savers will still have an appetite for some form of guaranteed product. The Bill will not apply to non-money purchase benefits, so it is unclear what happens to those benefits and, importantly, the assets backing them when a master trust fails.
In the other place, my noble Friend Baroness Drake raised an example of a trust that allows members to add in other savings and assets such as ISAs and property used for funding retirement. Everybody I meet acknowledges Baroness Drake to be a pensions expert in every sense. She believes that of the approximately 100 master trusts, only 59 are being used for auto-enrolment, with others having developed out of the pension freedom reforms.
Regulation should anticipate that master trusts will expand further into the decumulation market of retirement products. With that in mind, the exclusion of non-money purchase benefits from the primary legislation raises a number of questions. It is not clear what happens to the treatment of all non-money purchase benefits and the assets backing them in the event of a wind-up or other triggering event occurring. Will those members’ benefits be protected against funding the costs of a triggering event? How and where will they be transferred on exit?
In the other place, the Minister suggested that there is already extensive regulation to ensure that members’ non-money purchase benefits are protected. He called further regulation in this regard “unnecessary and disproportionate”. It seems odd that in this instance the Minister seems intent on minimising duplication, yet the Government continue to require duplication of regulation in some cases around the separate legal entity. The boundary line of the legislation appears a little murkier.
We note that in Government amendment 20, Ministers have acknowledged the lack of clarity around money purchase benefits and non-money purchase benefits raised by my noble Friend Baroness Drake, but we are a little disappointed that the amendment does not seek to provide greater protection to non-money purchase benefits under mixed schemes. Instead, it merely clarifies that the Bill protects only money purchase benefits within a mixed scheme. That is deeply disappointing for us for the reasons I have just outlined. I therefore request that the Government confirm absolutely that members of master trusts providing them with non-money purchase benefits face no additional risk as a result of that gap.
Will all retirement products with an element of guarantee be covered by the Pension Protection Fund regime? Master trusts are not regulated by the FCA, so where does the saver look for protection? Secondly, the continuity strategy required under clause 13 in the event of a wind-up will have to set out how the interests of members of a scheme in receipt of money purchase benefits are to be protected in a triggering event. Currently, it will not have to set out how members in receipt of non-money purchase benefits will be protected. Such a requirement would at least clarify what range of member benefits were in the master trust.
Will the master trust be required to set out how members with non-money purchase benefits will also be protected if a triggering event occurs? I am sure that the Minister will recognise these very genuine concerns and I look forward to his response.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell, and to follow the shadow Minister. My remarks will be in a similar spirit to his, trying to probe the Government on how exactly they see master trusts being used, how they see the pensions landscape and how the two will mesh.
Amendment 32, which stands in my name, relates to how we deal with self-employed people who may end up in a master trust. That starts out as a technical question—as the Minister may know, I like to ask technical questions of legislation to see whether he has read it all and can trace it all through, because these things can be chased around. Under the definition in the Bill, a master trust must be an occupational pension scheme, which takes us back to the Pension Schemes Act 1993. An occupational pension scheme has to provide benefits in respect of earners with a qualifying service in an employment—such schemes do not provide benefits to earners who are self-employed in that situation. Therefore, on a high-level reading, if a scheme is providing benefits for people who are self-employed, technically it should not be an occupational pension scheme.
I assume that the answer to that particularly technical point will be that if in a master trust there are 5 million people who are employed and there are 10,000 who are self-employed, it does not get suddenly blasted out of being an occupational pension scheme and out of the regulations and drop back into the personal pension scheme regulations. I assume that the National Employment Savings Trust, which I think already markets itself to the self-employed, will not somehow have a change in its regulatory position by serving a few self-employed people.
It is not hard to foresee that the landscape might change, and it is pretty clear that we would quite like the landscape to change quite dramatically. We have a big problem with the lack of pension provision among people who are self-employed and, sadly, that problem is going the wrong way. Auto-enrolment has enrolled millions more employed people than ever before in a pension, but over the course of this century the number of people who are self-employed and actively in a pension scheme has decreased from about 1.2 million in 2002-03 to 380,000—and that is as the number of people who are self-employed has risen to more than 3.5 million. That is going completely the wrong way. Far more people are self-employed, yet far fewer of them are saving in a pension. That is not a healthy situation for them and their prospects in retirement, and it is not a particularly healthy position for us, considering how people will be able to look after themselves when they reach that age.
It is pretty clear that we need to find solutions that encourage more self-employed people to save into a pension and to take the various tax advantages that that provides. Hopefully, when the Government conduct their auto-enrolment review later in the year, one issue they will look at is whether we can extend, tweak or amend auto-enrolment to get to those many millions of people who are self-employed. Let us be honest: probably quite a large number of them would like to be employed or think they are employed—or perhaps we think they are legally, in substance, employed, yet their non-employer is somehow tweaking the rules to treat them as self-employed. How do we get those people to realise that pension savings is important to them? How do we get them into a simple scheme that is easy to administer?
It looks like auto-enrolment master trusts are the obvious vehicle that could cope with the scale of several million more people, who are probably generally on relatively low earnings, joining a pension scheme. They have the infrastructure and it is not hard to see how self-employed people could self-manage such schemes via online portals. It looks like, as a matter of policy, we would quite like to encourage all the big master trusts out there to start taking people who are self-employed. I suspect we would like to find a way.
The hon. Gentleman is making some important points that I fully subscribe to. As much as I welcome the Bill and its overall thrust, is this not perhaps a little bit of a missed opportunity? We could have made sure that the review of auto-enrolment came alongside it, which would have informed our present debate on how we deal with self-employed people, and indeed those under the earnings threshold. We want people to be investing in pensions for the long term.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I can see the attraction of that. Given that we have effectively auto-enrolled millions of people into master trusts, I am not sure I would support a delay in the regulations coming into effect. We need the powers in the Bill available to ensure that the people we have strongly encouraged into the schemes have all the protections we think they ought to have. I suspect that the review of auto-enrolment will be long, and in some ways it will probably be difficult to work out the right balance to strike in increasing the level of savings without encouraging people to leave the schemes completely. I am not sure that waiting for a resolution of that issue would be a sensible idea.
May I raise another technical point about when a master trust scheme ends up with a large proportion of self-employed members, up to 10%, 20% or whatever percentage of the scheme? Will it have to change its regulatory position and move from being an occupational pension scheme to a personal pension scheme or some other sort? I accept that there is a lot of regulation of such schemes, which may not be the end of the world, but perhaps the Minister will set out how the Government are tackling the big self-employed pension gap, where many fewer people save much smaller amounts and end up with much smaller pension pots as they approach retirement. As our employment markets change, that will be a significant challenge for us as we try to make pensions effective for everyone in the country. I look forward to the Minister’s remarks.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I thank you for the clarification of the rules concerning hot beverages, with which I am happy to comply.
The attitude that the Opposition, the Scottish National party and all of us have taken towards the Bill is to discuss it widely among ourselves and to agree as much as we can, which is positive. Our disagreements are honourable, and no one is playing politics or at opposition for the sake of it. I wanted to make that clear, Mr Rosindell, because I have served on Bill Committees, as I am sure you have, where that has not been the case.
The Opposition amendments and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley were tabled in the correct spirit. We had considered all the points in advance of the Bill being introduced and therefore in advance of the House of Lords proceedings and Second Reading in the Commons. Master trusts have been around for a long time, but they have grown exponentially in number over the past two years. The legislation is therefore a response not to a fundamental problem with master trusts, but to their exponential growth, pushed by auto-enrolment, and the industry seeing them as an area with a less stringent regulatory regime than other parts of the pension system. For example, insurance companies and personal pensions are regulated by the FCA under long-standing rules, and the non-master trust system is very different, because those trusts have one clear sponsoring employer and there are lots of rules and regulations under the Pensions Regulator.
The legislation is therefore meant to fill a gap. We are not filling the gap because of a disaster or problems that have arisen; we are trying to see what problems might arise. That has been the scope of discussions between the Government, Opposition and individuals, which has included some positive opposition in the other place. I hope that that will be true for most of our proceedings.
Opposition amendments 22 and 23 and the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley seek to change the Bill’s definition of a master trust. Amendment 22 would extend the definition to all schemes that offer money purchase benefits, which would include schemes used only by a single employer or by employers connected to each other. The proposal would extend the scope of the definition significantly and, therefore, of the authorisation regime disproportionately.
As the debate in the other place indicated, there is general acknowledgment that further regulation of master trusts is desirable and necessary. As I explained in my opening remarks, master trusts have developed into structures that are often very different from traditional occupational pension schemes offered by single employers or the more traditional group of connected corporate employers. They offer compelling benefits to employers and members. They spur competition in the market and allow for economies of scale, providing value for money. They are also an efficient solution for smaller employers for whom setting up an individual pension scheme for employees would be difficult, onerous, impractical and expensive.
We accept, however, that those qualities also bring about new risks. As I explained, those risks are less likely to be present in single employer or connected corporate defined contribution schemes. The authorisation regime is intended to address those risks. For example, in a single employer scheme—a traditional trust scheme—the employer is usually closely involved in the running of the scheme and has an active relationship with the trustees. In a master trust, the employer’s participation is often largely limited to paying the employer contribution, which is probably the most important part. I do not take that lightly, but the responsibility for the running and administration of the trust is clearly different from a single trust for a single employer. Additionally, in a single employer scheme, the employers determine the terms of the scheme, whereas in a master trust it is done for them, with the person or organisation setting up the scheme doing it.
Those differences highlight why the purpose of the Bill is to require authorisation and provide member protection in respect of master trusts. The risks are specific to this kind of scheme and it is therefore important that the definition reflects such schemes and does not extend beyond them. The clause establishes the proper scope of the Bill and ensures that its regulation is proportionate to the issues arising.
Amendment 23 was clearly explained by the hon. Member for Stockton North. It would amend clause 1(2), which provides that the Bill’s provisions apply to a master trust scheme only in so far as it provides money purchase benefits. That would mean that the provisions of the Bill would apply in relation to the scheme as a whole, and not just in relation to the parts of it that apply to money purchase benefits. Most master trusts will only provide money purchase benefits—that is the purpose of the vast majority of them—but it is fair to say that a number will provide money purchase and non-money purchase benefits. I agree with him that master trusts can do that legally and properly. It is not the norm but some do.
As I have already set out, the authorisation regime is intended specifically to address certain risks that apply to members in master trusts that relate to the structure and funding of such schemes. In particular, the Bill is focused on the risk around money purchase benefits, and we have been open about that. In answer to the hon. Gentleman, the Bill is focused in that way because there is already extensive regulation in relation to occupational pension schemes providing non-money purchase benefits—regulation already exists. Applying the authorisation regime to them would create duplication of regulation. He warned us about duplication, but the amendment would create duplication of regulation and add unnecessary costs and burdens to the running of those schemes, with little purpose in terms of protecting members, so far as we can see.
In addition, authorisation requirements are intentionally targeted at the risks relating to money purchase benefits. Conflict and confusion might arise if those requirements are applied across the board. For example, the provisions requiring the transfer of member benefits and wind up of a scheme might have a detrimental impact on members if applied in relation to non-money purchase benefits. It is important that the members of schemes with mixed benefits have the same standard of protection as members of schemes that only have money purchase benefits. That is why the authorisation regime applies to the money purchase aspect of such schemes. Extending authorisation to types of benefits for which it is not designed and where the risks do not arise in the same way would not be appropriate.
To answer a question asked by the hon. Member for Stockton North, I can confirm that the Government intend to include decumulation schemes—the decumulation products that he mentioned in his speech—in clause 41.
I am particularly keen to understand further what the Minister means by the same protections being in place for non-money purchase benefits as for money purchase benefits.
As I explained before, the two are covered by separate regulation and separate rules. I do not see how combining the two together under the same regime would help to give protection.
Is not the truth that the two types of regulation will slot alongside each other? There will be a symbiotic relationship between money purchase and defined benefit.
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—
Have a little patience—I was going to say the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. Watford is much easier to pronounce, but I accept that he has a wonderful constituency that is very lucky to have him representing it. I have got it now.
The hon. Gentleman’s point was about why the review is different in timing and scope to the Bill. The main reason is statutory. We were obliged by statute to have the review in 2017, which means it cannot report until the end of 2017. In fact, 2017 is too early because we do not have enough figures to see people’s behaviour or habits since auto-enrolment came in. We are doing the review—it is being announced and will report—but we could not consider holding up this regulation until it came out.
I totally agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley that self-employment really needs to be taken into consideration, because those people are predominantly the same as people who happen technically not to be self-employed; their requirements are just the same, although they are their own employer. At the moment that does not fit into the system, although I really hope that it will. I cannot be more specific than that, but we have that as one of the heads of the review and will look into it. I hope he will bear with me on that.
I can confirm that the definition of a master trust, as set out in the Bill, includes all schemes that have the characteristics set out in clause 1. That includes those with members who are self-employed in addition to members who are employed. My hon. Friend’s amendment is therefore not necessary, although that is not to say that it is spurious or badly intended. I hope that I have clarified that his points are covered in the Bill, and that the amendment is therefore not, I respectfully believe, necessary. With those assurances and clarifications, I ask the hon. Member for Stockton North to withdraw his amendment, and my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley not to press his.
I share the Minister’s sentiment on our approach to this Bill and welcome the discussions we have had offline. Our main arguments about pensions are on other areas of policy, and certainly not this one.
I will briefly comment on the speech by the hon. Member for Amber Valley. There are ways to address the issues of auto-enrolment for the self-employed. Many people in the industry have shown me models, most of which Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs would have a role in delivering. The Minister accepted that the hon. Gentleman’s amendment was not spurious; when we get to new clause 4, he and his colleagues might see the need to support it and bring it into the Bill to avoid any further delay in addressing the needs of such groups.
The Minister has addressed the points thoroughly, but anomalies remain. I referred to one group of connected employers outside the scope of the Bill, yet a similar group with just one associated employer would be included. We need more consideration from the Government on that. I am also concerned about the protection for members in single employer schemes. All the responsibility seems to lie with the employer. Where is the protection for the member? I have already alluded to the reliance on secondary legislation. I am concerned that there has to be secondary legislation.
I forgot to mention the hon. Gentleman’s point about secondary legislation; if I may, I would like to use this opportunity to do so. I apologise for forgetting it; it was in my head, but other things were as well. There is a lot of secondary legislation in the Bill, because we want two things. First, we want to consult extensively with the industry, following publication of the Bill, on certain technical matters to do with how things will work. Secondly—this is very relevant—we have seen how things have changed in the past couple of years; master trusts have basically morphed from one thing to another. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with that; that is how industries develop, particularly in the area of financial services, which is very fast-moving. We want to retain the flexibility to change nuanced things as the industry changes, so that we are not finding further loopholes that we have to wait years for primary legislation to address. As hon. Members will be aware, the protections built into the regulations include the fact that in the first instance they will be affirmative, so there will be plenty of time for them to be discussed properly and correctly.
I accept that explanation from the Minister. There are other areas destined for secondary legislation that we will seek to put into primary legislation and that it is probably more important to press him on. He has a tough job—the money purchase benefits and non-money purchase benefits in particular need further consideration—but I accept where he is coming from. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendments 1 and 20 will prevent what would have been an unintended effect of the Bill, for which I apologise. I am grateful to the other place for its scrutiny of the Bill, and particularly to Lord McKenzie—I have complimented him so many times in this sitting that I shall take my gratitude to him as read for the rest of our proceedings, but I really must thank him for bringing this matter to our attention. The amendments, which we indicated in the other place that we would table, will fix the issue that he pointed out. Without them, where a scheme has a mix of money purchase benefits and non-money purchase benefits, a funder would not be able to conduct activities in relation to the non-money purchase benefits. That was clearly not our intention, but it was the effect of the interaction of clauses 1(2) and 11. Amendments 1 and 20 will amend clauses 1 and 40 respectively to fix that.
Clause 1(2) provides that where a master trust scheme provides both money purchase benefits and non-money purchase benefits, the Bill’s provisions will apply only to the money purchase benefits. Clause 11 requires the scheme funder to be set up as a separate legal entity that is defined, broadly, as a legal person whose only activities are in relation to the master trust. As a result of clause 1(2), for a scheme with mixed benefits, the reference to the master trust in clause 11 would cover only the money purchase elements, which could mean that schemes or scheme funders would have to be restructured for reasons that we did not intend.
Amendment 20 will therefore add a further exception to the principle that the provisions of the Bill apply only to money purchase benefits, in addition to those already provided by clause 40, which we will consider later. The reference in clause 11(3) to the master trust will relate to the scheme as a whole, not just to the money purchase benefits. That will ensure that the scheme funder can engage in activities in relation to any part of the scheme.
Amendment 1 will make a minor consequential amendment to clause 1(2) to reflect the amendment to clause 40. The combined effect of the amendments will be to ensure that clause 11(3) works as intended for mixed benefits schemes.
I inadvertently addressed the amendment in my first speech. We accept and welcome Government amendment 20, but we have not forgotten the issues that I raised earlier.