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Mr. Speaker: Order. We are going far too wide of the programme motion.

Mr. Willetts: I apologise if I am ranging more widely than I should. Does the Minister want to intervene?

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Minister does not want to intervene because he would be out of order, and the hon. Gentleman is out of order.

Mr. Willetts: I shall restrict myself to saying that I am pleased to see the Minister in the House today, despite the possible alternative engagements.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith): Will the hon. Gentleman apologise when he learns that a Minister is attending today's National Pensioners Convention conference?

Mr. Willetts: I am aware that the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for
18 May 2004 : Column 832
Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle), is attending the conference, but she is not responsible for pensions. The Minister should be at the National Pensioners Convention conference.

Mr. Speaker: Order. We must get on to the programme motion.

Mr. Willetts: We will scrutinise the Bill as best we can, but it is difficult for the Commons to perform that role when so many Government new clauses and amendments are produced at such short notice. Outside bodies, which have considerable expertise to offer this House and which may be directly affected by the provisions, also find it difficult to put forward their comments in those circumstances. Perhaps the other place will take the opportunity to correct the mistakes that slip through here because we do not have sufficient time to scrutinise the Bill properly.

12.55 pm

Mr. Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): Who could object to a three-day debate on Report, which, on the face of it, offers ample scope for debate?

I thank the Department for Work and Pensions because, along with all the new clauses that we must cover in the next three days, we have been given a briefing, which reached my pigeonhole this morning—obviously, I have read all of it. Some of the briefing relates to new clauses that we will consider in a matter of minutes, which makes a mockery of the suggestion that we are scrutinising this important Bill. We are enormously grateful for the briefing, which we will speed-read and spew back out as best we can.

Instead of moving this programme motion, the Government should have recommitted the Bill to Standing Committee, especially given the substantial new clause 34. New clause 34 arrived on our fax machines on Friday lunchtime, and we have had no time to scrutinise it in detail. As the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) rightly says, a lot of the material is technical. It took a long time for people to realise some of the major flaws introduced by the Pensions Act 1995, and I fear that the Bill will introduce many more unforeseen consequences, which just a few more days of mature reflection and detailed scrutiny in Committee would enable us to prevent.

Although the DWP has been helpful by advising us of what was coming, the Bill is not finished—some Government new clauses have not even been written yet. If we want a good Pensions Bill, we need proper scrutiny. Three days on the Floor of the House is not adequate when we are considering Government amendments on which the ink is still wet. The Bill should return to Standing Committee, and we do not believe that the programme motion provides for proper scrutiny.

12.57 pm

Malcolm Wicks: Although we do not want to be drawn on this matter, on occasions in the distant past Ministers have been reprimanded for not coming to this House of Commons. This is the first occasion on which I have been challenged for being in the House of Commons rather than by the seaside in Blackpool. I prefer being here to
18 May 2004 : Column 833
being in Blackpool, because the Pensions Bill is on Report, and my duty as Minister for Pensions is to the House of Commons.

Mr. Willetts: The objection is that the Pensions Bill is being taken on the same day as the National Pensioners Convention conference in Blackpool.

Malcolm Wicks: Feebler and feebler. The shadow Minister of State, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson), must judge where his priority lies today, and I think that his duty is to this House of Commons.

On the serious issues, we said many times in Committee that the Bill is technical. I have made the point that we have had to amend it, and I apologise for that because I realise that it inconveniences those who wish to scrutinise it. We have always done our best to introduce information at appropriate times, but I have explained in Committee and to the whole House that we were under pressure to introduce the Bill. All other things being equal, we would have taken a year or two to get the Bill absolutely right, with all the semi-colons in the right places, perhaps by introducing a draft Bill. All other things are not equal, however, and tremendous pressure exists to bring security to those people in private companies who have final salary pension schemes and who risk losing all or a large proportion of their pensions, if their company becomes insolvent. Although people are impatient because we cannot introduce such security until April next year, they would be very impatient if we were not to introduce it for another year or two. Therefore, although I apologise as a matter of courtesy, I do not apologise for the fact that the Government are introducing the Bill, even if it means that we have to amend it more heavily and more often than would normally be the case.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): As I am sure the Minister understands, some people cannot retire at the moment such is their uncertainty about their pensionability. It is an issue of life and death for some people—that is why we have to introduce the Bill, get it right and do it quickly.

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying from the programme motion.

Malcolm Wicks: Let me sum up by saying that notwithstanding the Bill's complexity, we think that three days is a very adequate amount of time for the House to consider it on Report and Third Reading.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 260, Noes 154.

Division No. 179
[1:00 pm


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Byers, rh Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Drew, David (Stroud)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Heppell, John
Heyes, David
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Merron, Gillian
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Olner, Bill
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Ms Bridget Prentice and
Vernon Coaker


Allan, Richard
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Barrett, John
Beith, rh A. J.
Beresford, Sir Paul
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Butterfill, Sir John
Cameron, David
Carmichael, Alistair
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Curry, rh David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, rh William
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Jack, rh Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Leigh, Edward
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, rh David
Maude, rh Francis
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paterson, Owen
Portillo, rh Michael
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Teather, Sarah
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Trimble, rh David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Wishart, Pete
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Alan Reid and
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown

Question accordingly agreed to.

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18 May 2004 : Column 837

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