Skip to main content

Pensions Bill

Volume 455: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

We published the Pensions Bill on 29 November. We have received, and continue to receive, a wide range of representations. We have also met, and continue to meet, a wide range of stakeholders to discuss our proposals.

What discussions has the Minister had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer about people who have made voluntary national insurance contributions and will not benefit from the new arrangements in the Bill? Is there not a strong case for those contributions to be refunded?

We have worked closely with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs on the issue. From the moment that they were put into the public domain, we wrote to people alerting them to the proposals, which appeared first in the White Paper and are now in the Pensions Bill. Obviously, we cannot take Parliament for granted and start to change the rules before the law is changed. We must change the law first, and that is the stage at which we will be able to make the change that the right hon. Gentleman suggested. The precedent, under both the previous and present Governments, is that contributions paid at the time should not be refunded, otherwise every time that we introduced a social security policy change we would have to make changes backdated many decades.

Will my hon. Friend accept a representation from me, and agree not to set any artificial capping on pension fund surpluses, as introduced by Nigel Lawson in the 1986 Budget? Does he not agree that that was the beginning of a difficult period for pension funds, and that such changes should be avoided?

My hon. Friend is right. That restriction on surpluses has, in fact, been removed by the Government. He is right, too, that those pension trends have been under way for many years. The number of people in occupational pension schemes fell under the previous Government, and that has been the case, too, under the present Government. It is important that we work on a policy to make sure that everyone has access to employer contributions to their pensions, and that is exactly what we are doing through personal accounts.