Pensions Bill

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Mr. Waterson: I echo those Easter sentiments.

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What is one to say? Hardly any of the issues that the Minister has flagged up in his comments, which were helpful as far as they went, are new. On the contrary, they are almost all matters that the industry and the experts expected to be in the Bill. The Minister talks about the Department for Work, but some sections of that Department have not been working hard enough.

I want to make a point that I have made before, but which seems to have fallen entirely on deaf ears. This point is not just about amendments or new clauses that will be tabled during the recess so that they are printed, and debatable on the Tuesday when we come back. Perhaps Opposition Committee members will have had the chance at least to glance at them, and at the explanatory notes. The whole point is that people out there want to know that they are being tabled, and want to have the chance to comment on them through Committee members, and I do not think that they will have that opportunity. That is an outrageous way to legislate in a complex area of the law, which will severely limit our ability to scrutinise those parts of the Bill, and will make it all the more necessary for proper scrutiny to take place—ultimately, in another place.

Malcolm Wicks: I appreciate the briefing problems that the hon. Gentleman faces, and I promise to send a copy to the House of Commons Library.

Mr. Waterson: A copy of what?

Malcolm Wicks: A copy of the things that I promised to send to Committee members. I know that the hon. Gentleman draws a lot on the Library information documents; hence my suggestion.

Mr. Waterson: I never know whether the Minister is being funny or not, and I suspect that I am not in the minority. This is a serious point; it is up to the Government whether they want to seem even more crassly incompetent to the outside world and to the people who will have to make the legislation work in the real world than they already do. That is a matter for them. We will do what we can to scrutinise the legislation, but I suspect that it will run into closer scrutiny in another place.

Anyway, I do not want to ruin this pre-Easter warmth and amity, so I again wish the Committee a happy Easter—and one free from worries about rafts of new clauses.

Mr. Webb: If those clauses, which have proved so tricky that they have not yet been written, finally arrive imperfect from the womb in our e-mail inboxes on Easter Sunday, shall we be able to table amendments to them? Once we have seen them, if there are bits of them that we do not like, will it be in order to table amendments to a new clause that will not, at that point, have been added to the Bill?

The Chairman: Yes.

Mr. Webb: In that case, I am happy to agree that the Committee should now adjourn.

Mr. Waterson: But in practical terms, if any of the new clauses are debated straight after the Easter break, there will not be time to table amendments to them that will be debatable.

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Mr. Webb: I am grateful for that intervention. May I ask for further clarification, Mr. Cran? I can understand why Government new clauses—even those that appear the day before our debate and are therefore starred—will be selected for our Tuesday sitting, otherwise I do not know what we shall do on that Tuesday. Is there a distinction between Government and non-Government new clauses, because the latter would be starred and not selectable?

The Chairman: Having consulted those who know, I am advised that if hon. Members wish to table amendments to new clauses that are available, it would be much better for the Committee if they could do so by the Friday, if possible. If they table them on the Monday, the Chairman will have to use his discretion.

Mr. Waterson: I am sorry, Mr. Cran—this is not some anti-religious attempt to stop Easter, but some of

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the new clauses will be printed on the Monday, so we cannot possibly do that, if I am correct in assuming that by ''the Friday'', you mean the Friday before we return.

The Chairman: For the avoidance of any doubt whatever, I shall read out this piece of paper that I have been given. Amendments to new clauses: if the new clauses are not seen in print until the Monday, they will be starred.

Mr. Waterson: So they cannot be debated?

The Chairman: I think that we have got there, have we not?

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at one minute to Four o'clock till Tuesday 20 April at half-past Nine o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cran, Mr. James (Chairman)
Baird, Vera
Barker, Gregory
Brennan, Kevin
Cairns, David
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Dean, Mrs.
Holmes, Paul
Keeble, Ms
Khabra, Mr.
Moran, Margaret
Osborne, Mr. George
Pond, Mr.
Price, Adam
Tynan, Mr.
Waterson, Mr.
Webb, Mr.
Wicks, Malcolm

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