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Volume 454: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2006

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether options are available to (a) non-religious people and (b) people of religions other than Plymouth Brethren who seek to opt out of annuities; (108311)

(2) what assessment he has made of the compatibility of the provision of alternatively secured pensions with human rights legislation;

(3) what mechanisms are in place to prevent abuse of alternatively secured pensions; and what evidence of such abuse he has collected;

(4) what religions other than Plymouth Brethren qualify for alternatively secured pensions;

(5) what guidance his Department has issued to tax accountants as to how they certify clients' religious objections to annuities.

The 2006 pre-Budget report announced changes to the pensions tax regime for alternatively secured pensions (ASP) with effect from 6 April 2007.

There will be a requirement to withdraw a minimum level of income each year from an ASP fund, the maximum annual withdrawal limit from an ASP fund will be increased and the facility to transfer funds on death as a lump sum to pension funds of other members in the scheme will be removed from the authorised payment rules. Further details are in pre-Budget report note 13 available at

These proposals will bring practice and policy intention into line and provide a fair balance between meeting the needs of those with principled religious objections to annuitisation and the needs of the wider public.

Published alongside the pre-Budget report, is a document: The annuities market, which clearly sets out the Government's position regarding annuities in general and ASPs in particular.