Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

As I am sure the Minister has discovered, the words in this amendment are taken exactly from the words of the last Pensions Act. The Minister was enthusiastic at the time in accepting that clause and those exact words. One would think, therefore, that the argument is fairly strong. This pensions legislation is a twin measure of two Bills: one Act already, another Act to come. It would be odd to have a post-legislative scrutiny clause in one part of it but not in the other. As the Minister so obligingly agreed last time to the detail of and exact way in which this amendment is formulated, for once the case that I am putting is totally unanswerable. I beg to move.

4 pm

Lord Skelmersdale: The Minister will remember that, when I supported my noble friend Lord Hunt’s amendment on the abolition of compulsory annuities, I spoke about campaigns in your Lordships’ House. I am happy to support my noble friend Lord Fowler’s campaign for post-legislative scrutiny, which he introduced to your Lordships’ House in his maiden speech in 2001. In last year’s Pensions Bill, after what I would regard as a tiny bit of argy-bargy with another place, my noble friend managed to get the Government to accept post-legislative scrutiny of that legislation in 2014. The provision is in Section 24 of that Act. Amendment No. 136AC would produce the same result for this Bill.

I found it rather ironic that, today of all days, my noble friend Lord Fowler spoke about the expense of errors in social security and, especially, pensions law—an underestimate if ever I heard one. We have knowledge today of the ombudsman’s report on Equitable Life, which we on these Benches welcome. My party’s pressure forced the Government to allow the ombudsman to investigate the regulation of Equitable Life in the first place. The ombudsman highlights significant regulatory failings, including those that occurred when the present Prime Minister, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was responsible. He cannot escape the blame.

The Government must now issue an apology and create a repayment scheme for those who lost out. The scheme must be consistent with sound public finances.

17 July 2008 : Column 1398

That means that policyholders cannot expect to receive payments for the full losses suffered. None the less, if the Government do not come up rapidly with a plan, we most certainly will. We also remember the related environment for, and the cost of—we now know those costs—setting up the financial assistance scheme.

I have a little trouble, as the Minister no doubt does, with the date that my noble friend has chosen. The Government intend to consider changes to personal accounts—a good example is transfers in and out—in 2017. In order to achieve this, they will need to undertake at least a partial review the year before—that is, 2016—and consult on that review. Given that the Government have now conceded that pensions Acts need periodic review, I cannot imagine that the Minister will defy my noble friend Lord Fowler—at least, I jolly well hope not—in his endeavour on this Bill. Otherwise, I would add power to my noble friend’s elbow to pursue his course, if necessary in the same way as was done last year. So, not today.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for his amendment. He is absolutely right: we had some discussion of this issue during the passage of the previous Pensions Bill. I do not have a totally shared recollection of the enthusiasm with which we accepted it; my arm is still hurting. I shall come back to changes since then.

Before doing so, I turn to Equitable Life, which the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, touched on. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has invited the Government to consider issues raised in her report and to reflect on what their response should be. The Government recognise that the ombudsman’s report raises issues that are of concern to all interested parties. The length and complexity of the report mean that the Government will need to consider it carefully before giving their response to the House of Commons in the autumn.

Last year, we were awaiting the Government’s response to the Law Commission’s report on post-legislative scrutiny. In March this year, my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons published a Command Paper setting out our response to this report and establishing a systematic approach for the post-legislative scrutiny of Bills that achieved Royal Assent from 2005 onwards.

This has, for the first time, put a system in place that will ensure that post-legislative scrutiny is the norm. Departments will have to publish a memorandum—it should be submitted in the first instance to the relevant committee in the other place but will be available to Parliament as a whole—on the provisions of an Act within three to five years of Royal Assent. This memorandum will allow Parliament to make an informed decision on whether full scrutiny is necessary.

We have begun informal discussions with the Clerk of the Work and Pensions Select Committee about the submission of memoranda for the Pensions Act 2007 and for this Bill. Due to the variety of measures in this Bill, it is highly likely that we will need to publish more than one memorandum. For example, the noble Lord’s amendment to the Pensions Act 2007 resulted in a requirement for the Secretary of State to report on the

17 July 2008 : Column 1399

operation of provisions of that Act in 2014. It may be prudent to cover some provisions in the Bill that relate to the 2007 Act, such as simplification of a second state pension, in the same report. However, we may identify measures in the Bill that can be reviewed before 2014. We have already agreed with the Select Committee that the position on contribution limits and transfers in and out of personal accounts will be reviewed in 2017. We will have further discussions, but it may not be sensible to submit a memorandum on the operation of the employer duty provisions before then, not least because the phased implementation of these duties will continue until 2015.

We are in a very different position from when we considered the noble Lord’s similar amendment to the Bill of last Session. The Government are now committed to a systematic approach to post-legislative scrutiny that is thorough and proportionate. Alongside existing plans to monitor and evaluate progress, we will ensure that Parliament has adequate opportunities to review all the provisions of the Bill. I hope that this satisfies the noble Lord.

Lord Fowler: The Minister has given an interesting reply. I am extremely glad that, at long last, we have accepted the principle that post-legislative scrutiny should become part of the normal legislative process. There is no question but that, with any legislation, many expensive mistakes are made under all Governments after a Bill has been enacted, not because it has been badly drafted but because it has been badly administered or managed. I am grateful that the Government have accepted the principle of post-legislative scrutiny. I will study carefully what the Minister has said and take other soundings to check that this process, which seems to be all apple pie and goodness, is just that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 115 [Orders and regulations]:

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendments Nos. 136B to 138:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Tunnicliffe moved Amendment No. 138A:

(a) regulations under section 15(2)(c), 16(1)(c), 85, (Persons working on vessels), (Power to amend provisions of Pensions Act 2004 relating to contribution notices etc.) or (Disclosure of information relating to state pension credit recipients);(b) the first regulations under section 3(2) or (5B), 5(2) or (5B), 6(4)(b) or (5B) or 8(3)(b);(c) an order under section 58 or 61(5);

17 July 2008 : Column 1400

(d) an order under section 117 amending or repealing any provision of an Act;(e) an order under paragraph 9(7) of Schedule 4.”

The noble Lord said: Clause 115 provides that any power under the Bill to make an order or regulation is exercisable by statutory instrument. It also sets out the parliamentary procedure that will apply to such secondary legislation. We are approaching the end of the Bill and this important amendment ensures that regulation-making powers in some sections that we have debated are subject to the appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny. For example, this amendment requires regulations relating to the sharing of pension credit customer data with energy companies to be subject to the affirmative procedure, thereby giving both Houses an adequate opportunity to scrutinise these measures. In this clause, we have also complied with a number of helpful recommendations made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform committee. In short, this important amendment ensures that secondary legislation under the Bill will be subject to appropriate parliamentary oversight. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale: Credit where credit is due—“for once”, the noble Lord might think. As with a previous amendment, I congratulate the Government on accepting the recommendations of one of your Lordships’ most powerful committees.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 139 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 115, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 116 [Orders and regulations: supplementary]:

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendments Nos. 139ZA and 139ZB:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 116, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 117 [Power to make further provision]:

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendment No. 139ZC:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 117, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Tunnicliffe moved Amendment No. 139ZD:

(a) the Pension Schemes Act 1993 (c. 48);(b) the Pensions Act 1995 (c. 26);

17 July 2008 : Column 1401

(c) Parts 1 to 4 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 (c. 30);(d) Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 (c. 19);(e) the Pensions Act 2004 (c. 35);(f) the Pensions Act 2007 (c. 22);(g) this Act;(h) enactments referring to any enactment within paragraphs (a) to (g).

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 140B and 142D. The amendment will help to facilitate the consolidation of private pensions legislation. Work is in progress, in conjunction with the Law Commission, to consolidate that legislation, which is currently contained in six different Acts. Presuming Royal Assent to this Bill, that number will rise to seven. As noble Lords will no doubt be aware, strict rules on consolidation mean that no changes can be made, even to correct clear unintended errors, to omit spent or unnecessary provisions, or to remove anomalies or ambiguities. The existing law must be reproduced “warts and all”.

Such issues can, however, be addressed by way of a pre-consolidation order, provided that no change is made to the policy enacted by the legislation. Section 321 of the Pensions Act 2004 provides the power to make a pre-consolidation order. However, as currently drafted, the power extends only to legislation that was in force at the time that the 2004 Act was passed. That means that an order made under the power in Section 321 cannot include any amendments that may be needed in respect of subsequent legislation, specifically the Pensions Act 2007 or the Bill, when enacted.

The amendment will ensure that any changes needed in respect of the more recent primary legislation can be addressed though a pre-consolidation order in the same way as for the earlier pensions legislation. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clauses 118 and 119 agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Repeals]:

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendments Nos. 139ZE to 139E:

“Section 23(2) to (4).”



17 July 2008 : Column 1402

“In Schedule 6, in paragraph 7(3)(a), the words “employees who are”.”

“Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (c. 4)

In Schedule 4B, in paragraph 12, the definition of “assumed surplus”.”

“Part 2AContracting-out: abolition of all protected rights
TitleExtent of repeal

Pension Schemes Act 1993 (c. 48)

Section 10.

Sections 25A to 27A.

Section 30.

Sections 32 and 32A.

Section 33A.

Pensions Act 2007 (c. 22)

In Schedule 4, paragraphs 5, 8 to 10 and 12 to 14.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 140 not moved.]

Lord McKenzie of Luton moved Amendments Nos. 140A to 141:

“Pensions Act 2004 (c. 35)

In section 173(5), the words “of this Act”.”

“Pensions Act 2004 (c. 35)

Section 321.”

“Pensions Act 2004 (c. 35)

In Schedule 1, paragraph 28.”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 9, as amended, agreed to.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page