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Personal Accounts White Paper

Volume 458: debated on Monday 12 March 2007

The proposal to establish personal accounts has been broadly welcomed in the House and by many others. The consultation on the detailed proposals set out in the White Paper ends on 20 March, and in the light of those responses, it is our intention to bring forward legislation in the next parliamentary Session.

Given that the public have more faith in the judgment of Lord Turner than the Secretary of State, has the right hon. Gentleman reconsidered his somewhat naive decision to cap those accounts at £5,000 a year instead of £3,000, as proposed by Lord Turner?

In the White Paper there is reference to personal accounts being delivered by a modern organisation, managed independently in the interests of its members, and within a framework set by Government. No one could dispute those criteria, but the fourth one—delivery by a private sector firm—would make many people nervous. Does the Secretary of State agree that, given the private sector’s track record in that area of pensions, it is not the natural area of society or of the economy to take on a responsibility as important in our pensions policy?

We want a value-for-money solution to implementing the proposed national pension savings scheme, and it is my view that the private sector has the appropriate expertise and experience to do that and provide a good service for the public in the process. At some point, we will obviously need to tender that work, and we will make judgments in due course. However, it is not an area in which Government have the right expertise to take the policy forward.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that minimising costs and charges is crucial to the success of personal accounts? What steps is the Department taking to achieve that?

My hon. Friend is right. Clearly, the lower the annual management charges and costs, the greater the return for those who are saving in the national pension saving scheme. That must be our principal objective in taking forward Lord Turner’s proposals. This, however, will be a matter for detailed consideration by the proposed personal accounts delivery authority, but I can assure my hon. Friend and the House that we will work closely with the delivery authority to make sure that this important aspect of the scheme is brought to fruition.