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20 Jan 2003 : Column 88—continued

Mr. Brazier: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Maria Eagle: No, I do not have time.

In fact, the Conservatives were so keen on the ideological policy of promoting private provision at any cost that they actually incentivised private pension sales to the tune of £3.6 billion. They threw millions of workers on to the dole as an instrument of economic policy while presiding over the two worst recessions this country has endured since world war two.

If people came out of that with their occupational pension intact they were lucky. Millions did not. Not only in my own city of Liverpool, where three quarters of manufacturing jobs were lost in 18 months between 1979 and 1981, in an avalanche of factory closures and pensions closures engineered by—

Mr. Brazier: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that when the hon. Lady refers to shortage of time, the division between the two debates today is arbitrary and agreed? It is not a fixed point. The Opposition are completely relaxed about letting the hon. Lady have an extra minute.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Whatever else, it is nothing to do with the Chair.

Maria Eagle: It was not only in Liverpool that we suffered the loss of three quarters of our manufacturing jobs within 18 months; more than 2.6 million manufacturing jobs were lost throughout the country, many of which had good pension schemes. That avalanche of job destruction and that wanton industrial and social vandalism were wreaked deliberately by the party that said that unemployment was a price worth paying. The Conservative record speaks for itself.

I shall now deal with some of the points that were raised during the debate, so I hope that Opposition Members will be pleased. The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire referred to the so-called £5 billion raid on pensions. The Opposition keep repeating that figure yet they never mention the off-setting effect of the corporation tax cuts that were introduced at the same time. The withdrawal of payable credits removed a major distortion in the tax system that encouraged companies to pay out their profits as dividends rather than retaining them for reinvestment in the business. It was designed to create a more neutral environment for planning and investment decisions that would encourage long-termism rather than the damaging short-termism of the previous arrangements. In any case, when the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) was asked whether he would reintroduce the dividend credit he said, in The Observer on 24 November last year, that he did not think that the Conservatives would do that. He said that helping pension funds did not mean going back to the previous system. On that point, I think that the Conservatives protest a little too much.

20 Jan 2003 : Column 89

Many right hon. and hon. Members referred to concerns about independent trustees and their behaviour on wind-ups, especially the fact that they take a great deal of money out of funds because they have higher priority than other creditors. The law requires independent trustees to disclose the scale of the fees that they charged within the past 12 months. Such transparency is important.

Independent trustees should also be able to demonstrate to the pensions regulator that they are acting professionally and in the best interests of the members. If that is not the case, the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority can replace trustees where there is evidence that those appointed by the insolvency practitioner are failing to carry out their duties responsibly. The proposals in the Green Paper for a more proactive regulator should strengthen those powers. I hope that that will reassure my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney) and for Cardiff, West and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), who made a particular point about that.

The hon. Member for Northavon, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats, made some points about speeding up wind-up. The Government are also concerned about the length of time that it can take to finalise arrangements when a scheme winds up. We introduced new legislation last April that places greater visible accountability on the people involved. We need to reduce costs to make the whole process more efficient. The new rules mean that OPRA has a more proactive role and we expect it to ensure that the improvements actually come about.

Several Opposition Members referred to the closure of defined benefit schemes, although the right hon. Member for North-East Hampshire (Mr. Arbuthnot) struck a somewhat discordant note in respect of his party and made an interesting speech that advocated the increasing use of defined contribution schemes. I agree that there is nothing inherently better about defined benefit schemes; it is the level of contribution that matters. At present, contribution levels tend to be less—about half as much—in defined contributions schemes than in defined benefit schemes. Although it is true that closures of defined benefit schemes have been accelerating over recent years, only 1 per cent. of them closed in 2001. We need to keep the matter in perspective. Many employers are still committed to their defined benefit schemes.

Mr. Heald: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Maria Eagle: No, I do not have time. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Heald: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We will give the hon. Lady another minute. Will she give way?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Once again, that is entirely a matter for the participants in the debate.

Maria Eagle: The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire stops me from dealing with the points that were made in the debate.

20 Jan 2003 : Column 90

I welcome the conversion of the Tory party and their new-found deep concern for the workers. However, I am a suspicious sort and so I suggest to the workers and their trade union representatives that they beware of Tories bearing gifts. Sometimes wolves appear in sheep's clothing. Pensioners will judge the Tories by what they did when they had the chance, not by what they say now when they are about as far away from power as I am from being recognised as the tallest woman in Britain.

The Conservatives described the £200 winter fuel payment as a gimmick. They opposed free television licences for the over-75s. They said that the minimum income guarantee had nothing to recommend it. They said that they would reconsider the pension credit, which rewards people for saving, and their leader has been a long-standing advocate of wrecking the basic state pension, of which he once wrote that it should become a function of the private sector.

To top it all, the Conservatives are now advocating a 20 per cent. across-the-board cut in public expenditure, which would devastate pensions. All that from the party of VAT on fuel, charges for eye tests and pensions mis-selling—and from the party that slashed SERPS not once but twice. It cut inherited SERPS in half, then did not bother to tell anyone. No wonder the Opposition kept their motion so narrow—they did not want their record examined. But we remember that record and will keep reminding the people of Britain that despite the Tories pretending to be the workers' friends, they cannot be trusted on pensions. I commend to the House the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 191, Noes 315.

Division No. 56
[7.30 pm


Ainsworth, Peter
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Ancram, Michael rh
Arbuthnot, James rh
Atkinson, David
Atkinson, Peter
Bacon, Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John
Barrett, John
Beith, A. J.rh
Bercow, John
Beresford, Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Annette L.
Browning, Angela
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Cable, Vincent
Calton, Patsy
Cameron, David
Carmichael, Alistair
Cash, William
Chapman, Sydney
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, Kenneth rh
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Curry, David rh
Davey, Edward
Davis, David rh
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Dorrell, Stephen rh
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Alan
Duncan, Peter
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, Eric rh
Foster, Don
Fox, Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew
Gibb, Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Gray, James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, John rh
Hague, William rh
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark
Hogg, Douglas rh
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Jack, Michael rh
Jackson, Robert
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris
Kennedy, Charles rh
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Julie
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, Greg rh
Laing, Eleanor
Lait, Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David
Leigh, Edward
Lewis, Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, Peter rh
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Anne
Mackay, Andrew rh
Maclean, David rh
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Marsden, Paul
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Brian rh
May, Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Andrew
Norman, Archie
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Stephen
Osborne, George
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mark
Pugh, John
Redwood, John rh
Reid, Alan
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Laurence
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, Gillian rh
Shepherd, Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith
Smith, Robert
Spelman, Caroline
Spink, Bob
Spring, Richard
Stanley, John rh
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swire, Hugo
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Peter
Taylor, Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Teddy
Thomas, Simon
Tonge, Jenny
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Turner, Andrew
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Michael
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Ann rh
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Williams, Hywel
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Young, George rh

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Hugh Robertson and
Mr. Desmond Swayne


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald rh
Anderson, Janet
Atherton, Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Anne
Bell, Stuart
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Hazel
Boateng, Paul rh
Bradley, Keith
Bradley, Peter rh
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Nicholas rh
Brown, Russell
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Caborn, Richard rh
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan
Campbell, Ronnie
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Helen
Clark, Lynda
Clark, Paul
Clarke, Tom rh
Clarke, Tony
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cooper, Yvette
Corston, Jean
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann
Cryer, John
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jack rh
Cunningham, Tony
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Alistair rh
Davey, Valerie
David, Wayne
Davies, Denzil rh
Davis, Terry rh
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Janet
Denham, John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Frank rh
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Julia
Dunwoody, Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, Frank rh
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael
Foster, Michael Jabez
Foulkes, George rh
Francis, Hywel
Gapes, Mike
George, Bruce rh
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane
Griffiths, Nigel
Griffiths, Win
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Fabian
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom
Havard, Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan rh
Howarth, George
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin
Humble, Joan
Hurst, Alan
Iddon, Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Adam rh
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
Jackson, Helen
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan
Jones, Helen
Jones, Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Martyn
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Sally
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, Ruth
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Oona
Ladyman, Stephen
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan
Lewis, Terry
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Lyons, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCartney, Ian rh
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McFall, John
McGuire, Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Alice
Mandelson, Peter rh
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Gordon
Marshall, David
Marshall, Jim
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Michael rh
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun rh
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Estelle rh
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Denis
Murphy, Jim
Naysmith, Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Owen, Albert
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Gordon
Prescott, John rh
Primarolo, Dawn rh
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, Joyce rh
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick rh
Reed, Andy
Reid, John rh
Robertson, John
Robinson, Geoffrey
Roche, Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Debra
Simon, Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Andrew rh
Smith, Chris rh
Smith, Jacqui
Smith, John
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, John rh
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David
Stewart, Ian
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Howard
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ann rh
Taylor, Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Gareth
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis
Turner, Desmond
Turner, Neil
Twigg, Derek
Twigg, Stephen
Tynan, Bill
Vaz, Keith
Walley, Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Alan rh
Williams, Betty
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Rosie
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D.
Wright, David
Wright, Tony

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Ivor Caplin and
Mr. Fraser Kemp

Question accordingly negatived

20 Jan 2003 : Column 94

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


20 Jan 2003 : Column 95

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