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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Obviously we shall come back to this matter. But on the point of planning consents, I was delighted that the Minister went into that example; it makes our point beautifully. In that situation people who stand to gain by enlarging their homes pay for the planning permission. They pay the fees that would lead to that planning permission being granted, in exactly the same way as we pay into our pension funds. But when it comes—as I am sure the Minister knows, which is why I am surprised he mentioned it —to the enforcement of planning controls, that is the policing and regulating activity, that is precisely what is paid for by all the taxpayers of a local authority. It makes our point precisely. Where it is a matter of private enrichment, the individual pays; where it is a matter of public policy interest that planning controls be observed, all of us pay. That is precisely what happens in local government and precisely what we should like to see happen here.

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On the Minister's substantive point, that those who benefit should pay, our argument is simple. All of us benefit—directly as members of schemes or indirectly to ensure that the tax privileged status of occupational pension schemes and the confidence that they enjoy is protected. We all benefit either directly or indirectly and therefore, on the Minister's own argument, we should all pay.

We shall return to this amendment. At this time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 97, line 10, leave out ("or a personal pension scheme").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 15 and to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 16. These are technical amendments. As we are proposing to repeal Section 136 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 by means of Amendment No. 193 to this Bill and Clause 62 of the Bill relates only to occupational pension schemes, these amendments remove an unnecessary reference to personal pension schemes in paragraph 17 of the schedule. I commend the amendment to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 97, line 11, leave out ("under section 136 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 18:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

Assistance for research and education

(".—(1) The Authority may undertake or assist (financially or otherwise) the undertaking by other persons of any research, and any educational activities, which appear to the Authority necessary or expedient for the purposes of this Part.
(2) The Authority may make charges for educational or other facilities made available by it.").

The noble Baroness said: These two amendments are grouped together and are designed to grant the regulatory authority powers additional to those which we believe are granted in the Bill, if only we could know what those powers are. The first amendment seeks to permit the authority to assist research and education. The second amendment is designed to permit the authority to support legal activity.

I deal with the first amendment. The powers and obligations of the authority in the Bill as drafted are supervisory only. This amendment, together with others, is intended to widen the functions of the authority to give it greater powers to determine and enforce best practice. Clearly, the authority needs to know what that best practice should be, and to do so it will need these powers. The amendment has modest financial implications, but we believe that that can be covered by

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charging. A very similar power is possessed by the EOC under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Part of the job of any regulatory authority is to be able to pursue research and education in appropriate activities. Therefore, we should like to see that power in this Bill.

The second amendment is very similar. It is designed to permit assistance with legal proceedings. There are well-established precedents under the EOC. Without such a clause it could be financially prohibitive for members to seek redress in the courts. The reference to industrial tribunal proceedings relates to the enforcement provisions contained in the Bill so far as equal treatment is concerned: Clauses 55 to 59. The enforcement mechanism for an equal treatment rule is identical to that in the Equal Pay Act 1970. The wording comes from the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

Both amendments seek to widen the powers of activity of the authority. Given the obscurity of those powers, the position needs to be clarified. There are well-established precedents to which the Government have already acceded. We hope that they will be able to support these amendments.

Baroness Seear: I rise briefly to support the amendment which the noble Baroness has just explained. The one thing on which we can all be completely agreed is that the issue of pensions is complex. Nobody knows quite how they will work out in future. Therefore, it is highly desirable that research and investigation should be undertaken to clarify issues as they arise and to enable the information obtained to be widely spread. That is the purpose of this amendment. It is also quite plain that legal issues will arise. As we know, legal costs can be prohibitive for many people in modest circumstances. It is a cliché to say that nowadays you have to be either very rich or very poor in order to get legal assistance.

The second amendment is to enable people to take cases which will undoubtedly arise, and which ought to arise, and clarify points of law. This has been extremely useful in connection with the Sex Discrimination Act. The Equal Opportunities Commission has been able to back cases where an issue of principle has required clarification. This has been very useful in advancing the purposes of that legislation and it can be equally useful in advancing the purposes of this legislation.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: This amendment, coming so soon after our discussion on whether or not pension funds themselves or the taxpayer should pay, perhaps provides an interesting message to us. If it was the taxpayer who was paying, within five minutes of making that decision, had the noble Baroness won the Division, the price would now be slightly higher. I have no doubt that that would continue. We have to examine rigorously any amendment that will create any unnecessary additional cost to be met from the levy. Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 both create additional functions for the authority and will impose new costs. All affect the financial arrangements for the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Only a short time ago I heard

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the Minister say to the Committee with great pleasure that the authority had powers to do anything it liked except borrow money. Is there not rather a contrast between that and what he is now saying?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am not sure that I understand the noble Lord's intervention. I should point out that during the course of the past two hours I have said that the authority's budget and its staffing will be a matter for discussion and agreement with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. Therefore, it does not have absolutely unlimited powers to spend money. It has to agree the expenditure. That has to be recouped in the levy by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I believe that I was referring to something quite different when I spoke about the powers of the authority.

The purpose of Amendment No. 18 is to create a new educational research role for the authority. I believe that such a role would not sit well with the authority's primary function as an enforcement agency and would create unnecessary additional costs. It would be wasteful to duplicate the already excellent advice and information service provided by the Occupational Pensions Advisory Service. Although the amendment allows the authority to charge for the facilities that it makes available, such charges will not cover the full costs incurred in granting financial assistance to others. Therefore, I cannot advise your Lordships to accept the amendment.

Amendment No. 19 would create a subsidised legal service for scheme members to bring matters before the courts. The main function of the authority is to enforce compliance with statutory obligations placed on those who run pension schemes. It will have power to take necessary court action.

I believe that the powers and responsibilities of the authority are perfectly clear and well laid out in the Bill, but I repeat them in order to deal with some suggestions that they are not clear. I believe that it is not appropriate for the authority to become involved in providing legal assistance to individual scheme members whose complaints may go beyond the specific statutory provisions within the authority's remit under this and previous pensions legislation. The pensions ombudsman already provides an effective avenue of redress for many individual members' pension complaints.

The costs created by this amendment are not laid out either in the amendment or in the speech by the noble Baroness, but I believe that they could be unacceptably high. For those reasons, I urge the Committee not to accept the amendment. I do not believe that we can accept amendments which are peripheral to the main purpose of this regulatory authority and which will impose additional costs on employers or even, if noble Lords opposite have their way, the taxpayer. It is fundamentally correct that the cost of regulation should fall on those who set up and run pension schemes. Equally, we must ensure that the costs which fall upon them are those specifically designed to carry out the regulation which we all believe to be so important. We cannot accept amendments which will give the authority new responsibilities that we do not believe are in

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keeping with its regulatory role. I believe that they can only detract from its effectiveness and create unnecessary costs.

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