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Personal Pensions

Volume 175: debated on Monday 2 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has as to the number of people who have now joined a personal pension scheme.


To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people are taking out personal pensions; and if he will make a statement.

Just over 4 million people have so far taken out a personal pension.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the most encouraging aspect of that figure is that it represents people in all age groups who have provided for their retirement? Does he further agree that it is absolutely disgraceful that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) should seek to penalise those 4 million people—or probably 10 million people, when one takes their families into consideration? Is not this what the Labour party is all about—muddled thinking, total misrepresentation and, worst of all, patronising people? In other words, we know best.

To borrow a recently expressed phrase, that is an example of the Opposition's crackpot, left-wing culture—

What is important about the Government's pension provision is that people now have a choice between remaining in the state earnings-related pension scheme, taking out a private pension and belonging to an occupational pension scheme. The Opposition have made it clear, through the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), that they are totally against that choice and independence in pension provision—

Order. The questions that were asked were in order, and if they were not I should rule them out of order.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) is muddled, as this is not Prime Minister's Question Time? We are asking specific questions on specific matters. Does she agree that, to use the words of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), the Opposition intend to steal private pensions from people?

The hon. Member for Oldham, West has already made clear his party's intentions for personal pensions. Fortunately, the Government intend to continue the policy of choice within pension provision between SERPS, a personal pension and an occupational pension scheme. Clearly, the Opposition wish to threaten that choice.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not it an abuse of the House that Question Time is used in regard to Opposition policies, which we shall certainly defend and promote when we have a chance? Is not the purpose of Question Time to hold Government policies to account?

This is not Prime Minister's Question Time and these are not open questions. It is the function of questions on the Floor of the Chamber to expound on policies, and that is what we are here to do.

To return to the question, does not the Minister feel a sense of guilt that she is aiding and abetting what is becoming the fraud of the century now that 4 million people have been bribed by dodgy advertising into taking out pensions? Does not she recognise that they are not pensions—they are risky savings schemes that are about as personal as a can of baked beans? When will the Government respond to the independent voices that are saying that more than 1 million people have been defrauded by such schemes and that most of their future benefits and pensions have already been eaten up by commission charges, administrative costs and the profits of the pension companies? Can it be possible that the Government are about to replicate that calamity by abolishing the dole? Will they give us a categorical denial, other than the arguments that have been presented today, and tell us that it is a product of midsummer madness by the loony right and that none of the Ministers will have any part in that crazy scheme to abolish the dole?

I was under the impression, although much noise was being made by Opposition Members, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave absolute assurances about the Adam Smith Institute pamphlet. The hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) repeated the comments made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West to try to scaremonger and to terrify perfectly normal, ordinary people who wish to take advantage of the excellent pension choices that have been made available by the Government. It is a disgrace.