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I take the opportunity to let the Committee know, through these amendments, what we are doing to consider how transfers across the industry, particularly of small pension pots, can be made easier. The Making Automatic Enrolment Work review, carried out last summer, recognised that facilitating transfers was critical to the success of the workplace pension reforms. It believed, however, that the issues went beyond NEST. When automatic enrolment becomes the norm, there is a much higher risk that pension savings, particularly for lower earners and people who move jobs frequently,

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will become fragmented in several small pots-a point made so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, just now.

The Government are already acting on the recommendation of the review to consider how transfers across the industry can be made easier. The DWP is working alongside the Treasury, HMRC, the Financial Services Authority, the Pensions Regulator, employers and pension providers to understand better the burdens employers and schemes face when administering small pots, and to identify any barriers facing members.

In addition, the DWP recently published-on 31 January-a call for evidence on the regulatory differences between occupational and workplace personal pension schemes. We are seeking to address existing rules which could impact on the success of the reforms, such as rules on early scheme leavers and disclosure. The call for evidence is likely to consider actions better to manage small pension pots. This call for evidence closes on 18 April. Our response will be released later this year after we have considered stakeholder views and evidence of burdens and costs.

Her Majesty's Treasury recently held a call for evidence on early access. This reflects the Government's commitment to consider ways to boost individual saving and to foster a culture of personal responsibility over financial choices, particularly in encouraging saving for retirement. The document sets out the available evidence on early access to pension savings, some potential models for early access and the potential benefits and risks, and sought further evidence from interested parties. It included a specific question on ways to improve the transfer process and on whether there is a case for introducing further flexibility in the trivial commutation rules. The call for evidence closed on 25 February. HMT is currently considering the responses and will publish its findings in due course. So, across all three of these areas, we are seeking to identify options to improve transfers so that individuals can get the most out of their savings.

I appreciate the interest that noble Lords have indicated in the overall issue of transfers, which is much wider than the restrictions that are currently placed on NEST. The restrictions on transfers into NEST are intended to focus the scheme on its target market, particularly as the reforms are staged in, enabling its administrative processes to be simple, leading to lower running costs and creating safeguards against levelling down. NEST can already accept certain transfers in-for example, where a member with less than two years' service has the right to a cash transfer. This allows jobholders who move from an employer not using NEST to one offering NEST to transfer their cash transfer sum into NEST. The Pensions Act 2008 commits the Secretary of State to review the effect of NEST transfer restrictions in 2017. But we are doing work now, before 2017, that will bring together evidence and analysis from a broad base.

As I know noble Lords appreciate, there is no straightforward solution and the outcome of any quick fix may not provide the universal remedy for individuals and pension schemes that we might hope for. Aggregating small pots by transferring them into another pension

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scheme is not necessarily a good thing to do for individuals, as the noble Lord, Lord Flight, just pointed out, as it will depend on the merits-the risk, charges and growth-of the fund they are transferring into compared to those of the fund they are transferring from. It is not necessarily a good thing for pension schemes either, which, though they would no longer need to pay for the maintenance of a potentially smaller pot, would need to pay to transfer the fund out. Hence, the work we are already doing to see what measures we can sensibly take to minimise industry burdens while delivering the best possible protection of individuals' retirement outcomes. We want to ensure that any solution will stand the test of time and meet the needs of all pension schemes and their members.

I do not want to prejudge the outcome of our considerations, but I can see the merit in a number of your Lordships' arguments, including that of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, that we should take into account giving the individual a choice, where they have very small pension funds, to take the cash. It is, of course, the very smallest pots that cause the biggest problems, as even if transfers can be facilitated, the frictional administrative costs have a proportionally higher impact. The noble Lord talked about sums of £20 and £30-I shudder to think of the proportion of administrative costs involved in doing anything with them.

Our ambition is that NEST will complement rather than replace existing good-quality pension provision. Changing the provisions now to allow NEST to accept transfers in during the critical implementation period could undermine that aim. By 2017 the reforms will have been fully implemented. We will have more evidence on the effect of the reforms as a whole, including the impact of NEST on the market. While I appreciate the principle behind these amendments, I urge the Committee to bear with us while we get to the heart of this difficult and complex matter. On that basis, I urge noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: That is helpful and I understand the issues associated with it, but can the Minister give us some guidance on the timescale? This is a problem now, as my noble friend said. Women, in particular, are low-income savers and have small pots which they are losing. They are being stolen from them with nobody being a thief but with women certainly being the victims. Given that this Bill is still going through this House and will then go on to the other place, presumably once it has finished the Welfare Reform Bill, the noble Lord has until June or July or some time like that before the Pensions Bill completes its passage through both Houses. Can he come up with some proposal by the summer in which we can corral these small pots so that they are not lost permanently to those who can least afford to lose them?

Lord Freud: My Lords, I am pleased to respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. She will see by the amount of work that we are undertaking and its complexity that getting a comprehensive review is not going to be possible in a matter of months. We are clearly talking about a matter of years to lock this situation down. I refer back in politest possible way to what the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, said. This has been a problem for a very long time and it is very

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complicated, involving a lot of different systems and structures of pension provision. We need a holistic solution. We have the work in train. We will get there but it will not be a matter of months, I regret.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, it would be very simple, at least as an interim stage, to build on what the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, was talking about and either have a cap on the size of individual funds that can be taken as cash or to raise the trivial commutation limit under specified circumstances. That would be very simple and would not get in the way of further more fundamental and wide-reaching reforms, of which I understand some of the bigger complexities-particularly between DB and DC schemes, although obviously DB tends to be confined to the public sector. But the noble Lord could make some interim arrangements which would not preclude an intelligent, sensible and decent wider response in the future. At the moment real people are losing real money who can ill afford to do so.

Lord Freud: My Lords, I accept the point that the noble Baroness makes that people lose money because of this. They have been losing money for many years. This problem has not suddenly emerged. Regrettably, because of the amount of work now under way, it would be premature for me to give any time indication about whether one could envisage some certain quick fixes that would go along with an overall strategy. It just depends. Noble Lords will understand that I am simply not in a position to say that we could apply some quick fixes along way. They may be possible but I certainly cannot indicate that that will be the case or the timing of it. I would love to be able to announce a wonderful transformation so that with one bound we broke free. But I can assure noble Lords that there is a major process in train to get a holistic solution to the issues of savings and these pots, and we are moving at a rapid speed to get that done.

Lord Boswell of Aynho: My Lords, I never mind saying this, but the Minister has given us an almost entirely satisfactory response. I can understand the noble Baroness's desire to get on with this, so perhaps I might counsel the Minister to look at two interim approaches in parallel. First, if he could do anything along the lines of my amendment, it would help. Secondly, we should try to avoid these schemes accumulating further. If he can stop the rot and prevent any more of these little pots being created from now on or fairly soon, it would be very helpful. However, I fully understand, not least because of the comments made by my noble friend Lord Flight, that these are complicated matters. I suspect that we will have only one go at this-it probably will not be in the Pensions Bill with which we are now dealing-and we need to get it right. All power to the Minister's arm on the overall concept, but I hope that he will remember at the same time to look either at whether existing arrangements and payments can be smoothed or at stopping the rot by preventing any additional schemes being created. However, in the spirit of what has been a very constructive debate, I beg leave to withdraw my sub-amendment.

Amendment 34A (to Amendment 34) withdrawn.



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5.45 pm

Lord Stoneham of Droxford: My Lords, I am grateful for the generous support that my Amendment 34 has been given and for the very generous response of my noble friend. Two points stood out: first, everybody recognises that facilitating transfers is critical and that it should go beyond NEST; and, secondly, we should look at the principle of early access. In that spirit, I am very pleased to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed.

Amendment 35 not moved.

Amendment 36

Moved by Baroness Hollis of Heigham

36: After Clause 9, insert the following new Clause-

"Voluntary and additional voluntary contributions into NESTs

After section 15A of the 2008 Act (as inserted by section (Transfers-in before decumulation)) insert-

"15B Voluntary and additional voluntary contributions into NESTs

(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations provide that a jobholder who in a preceding tax year or years after the commencement of NESTs has not paid contributions up to the maximum employee contribution limit for the year or years in question may at any time pay voluntary contributions up to the total of the maximum employee contribution limit for each of those years.

(2) The jobholder shall not be entitled to require the employer to pay the employer's contribution on voluntary contributions paid under subsection (1).

(3) The jobholder may exercise the right to pay additional voluntary contributions equal to the total amount of the contributions which would have been paid by the employer if the contributions in subsection (1) had not been voluntary.

(4) Voluntary contributions shall attract tax relief at the applicable rate.

(5) For the purposes of this section, rounding-up under section 9 above shall apply.""

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I think that many of us would like the annual cap of £4,200 on contributions to NEST to be removed. However, I again understand the industry's worries about losing funds under management from the better-off. I accept that a person would have to be a reasonably high earner to hit that cap of £4,200 each and every year. The amendment would simply allow the making-up of missing years-I am rather keen on making up missing years whether in the basic state pension or in NEST. The person concerned may have enjoyed a small legacy, perhaps on the death of a parent and the sale of the parent's home. They may have had a small lottery or premium bond win. He or she may have traded down their home to somewhere smaller while in their fifties and have thought that it made very good sense to add some of the modest equity available to their pension fund as a form of saving. They may have divorced and received from it a modest financial settlement of a few thousand pounds or so, some of which they would like to put in their pension to make up for the years that they missed. I make it clear that there is no suggestion of there being any parallel employer contribution; the amendment

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would simply allow an employee, if they wished, to add to their pension pot. The money would not come from any other savings, nor would it be a transfer. It would be, so to speak, new money. Although I doubt that it would occur very often, being able to add to their pension pot in this way would still offer women in particular, whose financial and, frankly, personal and private lives are highly unpredictable, some extra flexibility in the way in which they build their NEST pension. I beg to move.

Lord German: My Lords, I want to say a brief word about Amendment 38, which is in the group. Clearly, the Johnson review looked at this issue and having weighed up both sides of the argument, recommended that the Government should proceed to legislate. The words of the recommendation were quite ambiguous. It said:

"We are therefore recommending that the Government legislate for the removal of the contributions cap in 2017".

One could read that as recommending legislating in 2017 for removal of the contribution cap, or as recommending legislating now. Actually, the text of the Johnson review does use the word "now"-in other words, it should be part of this Bill-but because neither the Minister nor the Government are on record yet as saying why they have not chosen to follow that advice, it would be very helpful if this amendment could be probed in that manner.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, perhaps I may comment briefly. I can see the thrust of my noble friend's amendment. I remember that, when we debated the cap, we debated whether there should be an additional lifetime element as well. I think that, at one stage, we debated whether there could be a two or three-year period when one carried forward the unused amount. My recollection is that, other than the annual cap, which is as it now is, all that fell by the wayside, but the Minister may be able to update us on it.

It seems a good idea to me to be able to use the headroom in respect of unused bits, although I do not think there is anything that precludes someone who is, or might become, a member of NEST making a voluntary contribution up to the limit. The limit is not, as I understand it, an employee and an employer limit; there is a limit in respect of contributions for an individual. Certainly, for the reasons that my noble friend advances, if there were opportunities to use some headroom to get more into NEST, that would be good, so far as the removal of the cap supports the thrust of that. Again, given the consensus that was there and the existence of the cap, everything that has the potential to disturb that in the interim makes life a bit more difficult, although it would be good if it could go at the earliest opportunity.

Lord Freud: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness and my noble friends for bringing the important issue of the NEST contribution limit to the attention of the Committee. I shall deal with the amendments in the order they were raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, has raised, through Amendment 36, a vital point about the ability of NEST members to make contributions to their retirement pots that exceed the minimum contributions required by automatic enrolment.

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NEST has been designed to provide a low-cost, portable pension scheme for low to moderate earners. We want to encourage people, where possible, to save more than the minimum. The NEST order and rules already allow a member to make contributions up to the annual contribution limit in the financial year in which the contributions are made, as the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, pointed out.

The current limit is already set at such a level that it enables median earners to contribute as much as twice the minimum contribution requirement in a tax year. Allowing NEST members to make use of unused annual contribution limits in subsequent years would undermine the purpose of the annual contribution limit. This limit was designed to ensure that NEST does not adversely impact on existing good-quality pension provision. While I understand the principle behind this amendment, we should not forget the purpose of NEST. This is to enable millions of people to participate in pension saving from which they are currently excluded because they do not have access to suitable workplace pension provision. Filling this supply gap requires NEST to be both low-cost and as straightforward a scheme as possible. Adding to the complexity of administering NEST through complex arrangements for calculating the maximum annual contribution would undermine those aims.

Moving on to Amendment 37, the noble Baroness raises another important point, about how the annual contribution limit should be calculated. The limit, alongside the transfer restrictions, is designed to focus NEST on its target market of low to moderate earners. This is to ensure that NEST will complement existing good-quality pension provision, not replace it.

The baseline contribution limit was set at £3,600 in 2005 terms, following wide consultation on the proposals in the White Paper, Personal Accounts: A New Way to Save. Responses on the appropriate level for an annual contribution limit were based on analysis of several factors, in particular, the potential impact on existing schemes and the ability of individuals to save flexibly for their retirement. In line with the provisions in the scheme order, NEST Corporation has adjusted the contribution limit for 2011-12, prior to scheme launch, to £4,200. The current method of setting the annual contribution limit strikes the right balance. It ensures that NEST focuses on its target market of those excluded from pension savings as a result of market failure, while providing for a level of contributions that is sufficient to allow employers and individuals to contribute more than the minimum required.

I turn to Amendment 38, tabled by my noble friends Lord Stoneham and Lord German. This puts forward the recommendation from the Making Automatic Enrolment Work review that the Government legislate now to remove NEST's annual contribution limit from 2017. That review recognised the importance of the NEST contribution limit during the introduction of the reforms. It acknowledged that there was broad consensus behind the reforms, and that NEST's role was to fill the supply gap that those in the existing industry currently find difficult to serve. The review saw the contribution cap as a key lever in ensuring two things: that NEST remains focused on this target

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market as the reforms are staged; and that during this important period it does not adversely impact existing good-quality pension provision. However, the review team considered that once the reforms were fully implemented it may be appropriate to remove the cap. This is both to ease the administrative burden on NEST and to avoid any unintended message that there was somehow a maximum appropriate level of pension saving.

Great minds think alike. Section 74 of the Pensions Act 2008 already requires the Secretary of State to appoint a person to review the effect of the annual contribution limit in 2017. By this time, the reforms will have been fully implemented and we will have more evidence on the effect of the reforms as a whole, including the impact of NEST on the marketplace. I am not saying that the review team was wrong. I am saying that, given that it saw 2017 as the right time to remove the cap-by then we will have much more evidence of the impact of NEST in the real world-2017 is also a more sensible time to consider changing or removing the NEST annual contribution limit. Since this can be achieved by secondary legislation, there is no need to legislate now. I understand the principles behind these amendments. However, now is not the time and, given the scope individuals already have to make additional contributions and our intention to review the contribution limit in 2017, I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw this amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I can well understand why pension providers are-let me put it politely-apprehensive about the competition offered by NEST in terms of fees and charges and, therefore, want to protect the funds under their management. I accept the noble Lord's argument that the bigger issue of getting rid of the cap altogether may have to wait until 2017, although I am disappointed about that. What I do not understand is why there should be any threat to existing alternative providers for people who are in NEST and who, two or three years down the line, find that they have missing contributions, possibly by virtue of maternity leave or whatever. I cannot see how that situation-making good the shortfalls of previous years-is in any sense a threat to any other provider. Because they are in NEST, they will not be in any other provider's scheme. NEST is not, therefore, in any sense, competition to them.

I support the second of these amendments, although I understand the challenge that it might represent. However, the first amendment would simply make good the headspace in back payments, and I do not see why that would represent a challenge or a problem of any sort. Given that people occasionally get modest sums of money, it would seem to be consistent with our wish to encourage people to think about their retirement and to be able to make that money available for NEST. I do not know whether the Minister has anything further to add; he may feel that he has said all he is going to say on this.

6 pm

Lord Freud: I thank the noble Baroness for giving way and for giving me the opportunity to clarify matters. This is simply about administration, simplicity

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and cost. As you start to introduce these kinds of rules going backwards and forwards on what people can contribute, it gets very complicated and you start to build in the kind of complexity that we are all complaining about. Stranded pots are just one area generated by the complexity in the system. Therefore, the rationale here is: keep it simple.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, given the time, I do not think that there is any point in my pursuing this matter further. However, if not during the course of this Bill, perhaps subsequently we will come back to this bundle of issues, because it clearly has to be addressed. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 36 withdrawn.

Amendments 37 and 38 not moved.

Amendment 39

Moved by Lord German

39: After Clause 9, insert the following new Clause-

"Deferred charges

The Secretary of State shall by regulations provide guidance on the level of deferred pension member charges."

Lord German: My Lords, this amendment relates to deferred charges, and it deals with the part of the benchmarking of quality of schemes into which jobholders will be automatically enrolled.

As we have discussed on many occasions, a major segment of the workforce for whom auto-enrolment is aimed are likely to be frequent movers between jobs or, indeed, those holding multiple jobs during the year. One practice that is current in some personal pension schemes is increasing charges when people change jobs. An example of that might be where the current employee who is an active member of a pension scheme is actively contributing to a pension scheme, paying perhaps about 0.5 per cent in management charges. However, a former employee-that is, a deferred member of a scheme-is charged 1.5 per cent, which is much more than NEST will charge. Interestingly, the pension companies operating in this manner describe this as an "active member discount", but the consumer association Which? describes it, more appropriately, as a "deferred member charge".

These charges clearly penalise people who regularly switch employers, and it is particularly appropriate for many of the employees for whom auto-enrolment is targeted. Therefore, the concern here is that there should be a set of guidance, instructions or regulations to ensure that, in assessing the quality of schemes which may be alternatives to NEST, these issues are benchmarked appropriately.

Alongside this, there are concerns relating to the FSA proposals to allow employers to negotiate a consultancy charge with their advisers and then deduct those charges from the employee's pension pot. The general purpose and thrust of the amendment is to guard against excessive charges and to ensure that the Government benchmark the sort of quality that they want in schemes which are to operate alongside NEST in the open market. I beg to move.



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Baroness Drake: My Lords, I share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord German, and I am pleased that he has tabled this amendment, as it allows us to debate a matter which is of increasing concern to consumer groups, such as Which?.

There is a real issue of how the Secretary of State exercises his powers under the 2008 Act in terms of setting qualifying standards. Here, we are seeing two tensions coming into play. With higher levels of scheme membership, which automatic enrolment will bring, increasingly employers will not want to retain former employees-the leavers-in their trust-based DC schemes. They will prefer to transfer them out or default them into some form of personal pension. That is not necessarily an irrational position for an employer to take but the former employee-the leaver, the deferred member, the not-contributing-to-that-pot member-will move away from the preferential charges structure that their employer may have negotiated into a personal pension scheme with a much higher level of charge.

Where the employer workplace pension is delivered by a contract-based provider, both the employer and the contract provider may have an interest, for different reasons, in defaulting a departing employee or leaver into a personal pension which will very likely have higher charges, the employer motivated by not wanting to be responsible for a former employee and the insurance company because it does not want to maintain the lower charges for a non-contributing former employee. As the noble Lord, Lord German, has said, we have already seen instances of insurance companies offering active-member discounts, which, like Which?, I always say can be described as inactive-member premiums in terms of the charges raised. I know that this is something preoccupying the National Association of Pension Funds because it wants to set a quality mark and it knows that this is a particular problem.

In a world of auto-enrolment with an average of 11 job changes over a lifetime and the prospect not only of the difficulty of achieving a transfer but sometimes the costs involved in transferring and consolidating pension pots, there will over time be an increasing number of individuals who will have pension pots into which they are not actively contributing. It is this status of not actively contributing to the pension pot which leaves people vulnerable to the high or higher charges and the consequent returns on their pension contributions.

Therefore, whether the Secretary of State uses the opportunity of an amendment such as the one tabled by the noble Lord, Lord German, or the powers reserved to him in the 2008 Act, he will need to think about what he chooses to do to control the vulnerability of workers to escalating charges on pension pots where they are not actively contributing because they have changed their employer. I am confident that that problem is not going to go away. Which? is seized of it, as is the NAPF, and it is something that the Secretary of State is going to have to address. It is not just a case of looking at the charges when somebody is actively contributing and accruing; there is the question of what is happening to the charges when people are no longer actively contributing into that pot because they have gone to another employer and may be saving into another scheme. It is a growing and important issue, and certainly consumer bodies are very alert to it.



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Lord Freud: My Lords, my noble friend Lord German has tabled an amendment to give the Secretary of State powers to make regulations to issue guidance on the level of charges made by defined contribution pension schemes to deferred members. These deferred member charges, as he called them, are called "active member discounts" by the industry. Effectively, they offer lower charges to active members as an incentive, and perhaps a reward, for continuing loyalty.

The DWP has done some robust research on defined contribution schemes sold in the 2008-09 financial year. That showed that-somewhat to our surprise-charges typically do not exceed 1 per cent across the market, including trust-based and contract-based schemes. Where different rates were applied to active and deferred members, this tended to be in the form of even lower rates for active members, which begins to suggest that a true discount is emerging for active members, rather than a penalty for deferred members. It may be that consumer groups are saying that, as the pressure on charging comes down, the gains are taken by active members rather than deferred members. That might be one way in which we would like to look at it.

Baroness Drake: Even though the evidence that the Minister refers to shows that he is referring to 1 per cent, on a base load contribution of 8 per cent we aspire to charges of the order of 0.3 per cent and 0.4 per cent. A charge of 1 per cent is not a statement of success. We are trying to deal with two things. The inactive or non-contributing member should not suffer a disproportionate penalty, which they would not suffer in NEST. Equally, at the same time, charges should be brought down overall. I would not be very content if we were willing to settle on something of the order of 1 per cent. One would hope that, with mass auto-enrolment, the market generally would move to 0.3 per cent. If not, perhaps the provider should not be in the market providing products.

Lord Freud: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, for her market insight here. I choose my words carefully. It is clear that the capping has had an effect on charges. We are concerned that the pressure on charges should be maintained. That is why we have committed to monitoring levels of charging in the marketplace as automatic enrolment is introduced. We will publish guidance on default investment options in automatic enrolment schemes later in the spring. This sets out guidance for suitable charging structures. The guidance encourages appropriate charges, which match members' interests, and protects individuals from charges that are excessive in relation to the product they are paying for.

Let us not forget, as the noble Baroness has just pointed out, that we are introducing a major change to the pensions landscape. NEST is being set up to offer low-cost pension provision to individuals on low to moderate earnings. We expect this, as does the noble Baroness, to act as a benchmark across the pensions industry, as well as to help millions of low to moderate earners to save. We are also looking seriously at how transfers can be facilitated across the industry so that savers can shop around for better charge rates more easily. As I described in my response to a previous amendment, HMT recently held a call for

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evidence on early access, including a specific question on ways to improve the transfer process. The DWP, as I have already described, has recently published a call for evidence on the regulatory differences between occupational and workplace personal pension schemes. In this, we are seeking solutions to address existing rules that could impact on the success of the reforms. Those include rules on early scheme-leavers and disclosure.

We are actively seeking to identify ways to facilitate the best possible deal for savers across the areas of charging and transfers. Therefore, I do not believe that regulations to make guidance are necessary at this time. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord German: I am grateful for the statement that the Minister has just made. Apart from the actions that he has described, I should be interested to know how in future you can actively promote to the companies and individuals concerned the sort of changes that the Government wish to see. I do not suggest that the DWP should set up its own confused.com-type of operation, but it may well be that we need some form of open process by which both employers and employees can see the benefits of different levels of charging by the different companies and whether there is transparency in the operation. I welcome the Minister's statement on that and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 39 withdrawn.

6.15 pm

Amendment 40

Moved by Lord Stoneham of Droxford

40: After Clause 9, insert the following new Clause-

"Continued saving following employment lasting less than two years

The Secretary of State shall by regulations provide support for continuing savings towards a pension for persons with qualified pension schemes relating to periods of employment of less than 2 years."

Lord Stoneham of Droxford: In the interests of brevity as time is short, I am very happy to speak to Amendments 40 and 41, which are grouped separately.

Amendment 40 is related to the previous amendment, which concerned small pension pots. We want to ensure that small contributors to pensions over short periods are given due protection. We want to see that individuals do not lose out where they have less than two years' service, particularly losing the employer's contribution if withdrawn. We should like to see some ongoing discussion and review of how the position of these savers and pensioners can be protected. However, I accept that the transfer of pension capital is critical to this.

Amendment 41 is a probing amendment. It goes back to the discussion that we had on the past couple of amendments on the whole issue of the costs of pension schemes. We remain concerned that there are still no incentives for employers to be responsible for minimising the costs of the occupational pension schemes in which they are involved. We accept that progress

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has been made on this but we also accept that the Turner commission originally recommended more action on this point. We would like to make sure that, as the scheme is developed, there is an ongoing commitment to review whether the employer's contribution should be net of the costs of the schemes. I beg to move.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, in relation to Amendment 40, from the earlier response that we got from the Minister in relation to small pots and all the activity that is going on there, I presume that the sort of protection that the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, is looking for will be encompassed within that whole exercise. Accordingly, I should be interested to see the outcome of that in due course. Unless I am misunderstanding this, that is where it would be dealt with.

Lord Freud: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Stoneham for these two amendments, which concern the same issue-that of protection. Amendment 40 seeks to give us the powers to make arrangements to support short-term workers to build their pension savings. It is particularly those individuals who will receive a refund when they leave an occupational scheme within two years who will lose that opportunity. Clearly, the refund can be a default action, although they can choose to transfer the whole pension pot to another scheme if that is appropriate. Clearly, there is a very legitimate concern here that the default refund may mean that some individuals do not build up any kind of decent pot over time.

These are the areas that we are considering through the call for evidence on regulatory differences between different types of pension schemes, so I confirm to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, that our activity here addresses this issue. It is a very complex area and there are many considerations on both sides that we need to take into account before making a decision or changing legislation. The issues are the trade-offs between helping employers and schemes and increasing pension savings. We cannot, for example, limit short-service refunds without considering appropriate processes to help occupational schemes to manage additional small pension pots. Therefore, everything connects to everything else. As I have already described, we issued a call for evidence on 31 January to initiate a debate on possible solutions. The response will come this summer.

Amendment 41 would ensure that employers take into account pension charges when calculating their employer contributions. I assure noble Lords that we are not complacent on this issue. We fully appreciate the impact that charges can have on an individual's pension pot, particularly given the beta returns that we are currently seeing. We are taking steps to ensure that such charges do not have a disproportionate impact on members' savings. We will publish guidance on default investment options on automatic enrolment schemes later in the spring. That will cover suitable charging structures, as I said. The guidance will encourage appropriate charges which, first, match members' interests, and, secondly, protect individuals from charges that are excessive in relation to the product that they are paying for.



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Baroness Drake: I am conscious of the time and do not want to hold anybody up, so I shall try to be brief. I understand the issues that the Minister is trying to address, but I repeat that low levels of charges-for example, 0.5 per cent or below-are fundamental to the success of this asymmetric paternalist product. Somehow accommodating business models for suppliers whose charges hover around 1 per cent will not deliver the necessary strategic outcomes.

Lord Freud: I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, that if the research shows that charging levels are creeping up, we have the power under the Pensions Act 2008 to regulate to set a charge cap for qualifying schemes and auto-enrolment schemes. NEST will offer low-cost provision to individuals on low to moderate earnings. As the noble Baroness knows better than anyone else in the world, the annual management

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charge will be 0.3 per cent. If the contribution charge is taken into account, the overall annual charge is the equivalent of about 0.5 per cent. That will provide a clear benchmark for pension providers.

Given the safeguards that will be in place, and in light of the assurances that I have been able to give on Amendment 40, I urge my noble friends Lord Stoneham and Lord German not to press their amendments.

Lord Stoneham of Droxford: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 40 withdrawn.

Amendment 41 not moved.

Committee adjourned at 6.22 pm.


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