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Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) (No.2) Bill

Debated on Wednesday 15 March 2023

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: †Sir Christopher Chope

Amesbury, Mike (Weaver Vale) (Lab)

† Atherton, Sarah (Wrexham) (Con)

† Baker, Duncan (North Norfolk) (Con)

† Brereton, Jack (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)

Creasy, Stella (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)

† Ferrier, Margaret (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Ind)

† Gullis, Jonathan (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)

† Jupp, Simon (East Devon) (Con)

† Linden, David (Glasgow East) (SNP)

† Mortimer, Jill (Hartlepool) (Con)

† Rodda, Matt (Reading East) (Lab)

† Shah, Naz (Bradford West) (Lab)

† Simmonds, David (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)

† Trott, Laura (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)

Vaz, Valerie (Walsall South) (Lab)

† Vickers, Matt (Stockton South) (Con)

† Wild, James (North West Norfolk) (Con)

Chris Watson, Anne-Marie Griffiths, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Wednesday 15 March 2023

[Sir Christopher Chope in the Chair]

Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) (No. 2) Bill

Clause 1

Automatic enrolment: persons and earnings affected

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 3, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—

“(2) In section 3(1)(a), for “22”, substitute “16”.

(3) In section 5(1A)(a), for “22”, substitute “16”.”

This amendment would reduce the age at which automatic enrolment begins to apply from 22 to 16.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 2, in clause 1, page 2, line 8, leave out “3(1A), 5(1C),”

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.

Amendment 3, in clause 1, page 2, line 10, leave out “3(1A), 5(1C) or”

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.

Amendment 4, in clause 1, page 2, line 14, leave out “3(1A), 5(1C) or”

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.

It is, as always, a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North on getting his Bill through Second Reading, and I certainly commit my party to supporting the principles of what he is seeking to achieve.

Automatic enrolment of pensions is not an issue on which I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. It is probably the only issue on which he and I agree these days—that says more about our political differences than anything else. In a similar vein, it would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to the hon. Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), who initially introduced the Bill before he moved on to the dizzy heights of ministerial office at the Department for Transport.

It would be fair to say that the finer details of pensions policy do not generally get people’s excitement levels rising, although Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Sevenoaks, the hon. Member for Reading East and I find this stuff quite fascinating and exciting, so we rub along quite nicely. Although there is not excitement around pensions policy, there is scope for more political consensus. I believe that is true of automatic enrolment, which has generally been a success for our society. My only real criticism of AE is that there has not been a big enough attempt to include low earners and those of all ages. The Bill certainly makes great strides towards tackling that inequity, and it should help with some of the structural problems, such as the gender pensions gap, which does not get as much political attention as the gender pay gap.

I have no great desire to detain the Committee for any length of time today. I appreciate that the action is very much elsewhere—of course, I am referring to the local housing allowance debate in Westminster Hall this afternoon. The Minister knows and, I believe, understands my long-standing interest in extending automatic enrolment to everyone over the age of 16, not 22 or even 18, and for it to kick in from the first pound earned. The latter is particularly important for women, especially those who work part time and have not previously hit the threshold.

These are probing amendments. I am sure the Committee will be glad to know that I do not intend to press them to a vote. If Members want to be elsewhere, fear not; I will not press them to a Division. Amendments 1 to 4 seek to amend clause 1 to ensure automatic enrolment in a pension kicks in at the earliest stage—the age at which tax kicks in. They would put on the face of the Bill that automatic enrolment begins to apply from the age of 16, not 18, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North proposes. Amendments 2, 3 and 4 are merely technical amendments and are consequential in nature, so I will focus on the thinking behind amendment 1.

We all recognise that there are changes to the labour market, and that people’s employment journeys are changing. Many of us left the Chamber during the Chancellor’s speech when he was just getting on to that section of the Budget. He recognises that there are changes to the labour market. Likewise, the Work and Pensions Committee, on which I sit, is currently undertaking an inquiry into the plan for jobs and is trying to better understand some of the changes behind working practices and economic inactivity.

None of us—not even the Chancellor—has a silver bullet suggestion for how we fix the issues relating to under-25s and over-55s not participating in the labour market at the level they were before the pandemic. Following our recent cross-party trip to the USA, I know that I and others on that Committee certainly see apprenticeships as just one example of how we can offer a different path into the labour market.

That brings me very much to my own experience. When exam results are sent out, we politicians rightly talk about there being no wrong path for people’s employment journeys. Some, after school, move straight into further and higher education. Increasingly—this is my personal belief—they do so sometimes disproportionately for our economy. I use this analogy to explain it to folk: if I have a leaking roof or a leaking pipe, I do not want a doctor or a lawyer—I want a plumber. Perhaps, as an economy, we need to pivot a bit more towards some of the trades.

For others, and I am an example, the path on leaving school is a vocational qualification at first, such as an apprenticeship. It is with that in mind that I have tabled the amendments. We know from House of Commons Library research that, at any one time in the UK, approximately 572,000 people are undertaking an apprenticeship, sometimes for up to four years with the same employer, and from age 16. The Bill before us would exclude those apprentices from inclusion in automatic enrolment. I do not know why that is, especially when they are likely to have four years of contributions.

In responding to these probing amendments, will the Minister outline why the Government’s preference is for age 18 and not 16? Have they undertaken a specific impact assessment to age 16? If so, will they publish it? I know that the Government have published an impact assessment for age 18. It came through within the last hour, and I have looked at it, but it seems to extend only to age 18, not 16.

We all agree that automatic enrolment has been a success and extending it further to younger cohorts is clearly a good thing. On that, we will not disagree, but I do not understand why the proposal is to stop at age 18, not extending it all the way to 16, bringing it in line with the point when income tax kicks in, and including all workers. I very much look forward to the Minister outlining the Government’s rationale, and explaining why they would have any difficulty accepting amendment 1 to what is an otherwise excellent Bill.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I am grateful to you and to fellow Committee members for joining me today to scrutinise this important legislation, especially on Budget day.

The Bill before us contains two clauses. I am grateful to hon. Members for their support for the expansion of automatic enrolment into workplace pensions, a long-standing public policy objective that enjoys widespread support in this House and the other place, and therefore allowing this Bill to proceed to Committee, despite the lack of opportunity for a debate on Second Reading.

The Bill has a clear and straightforward purpose: to allow the Government to lower the age at which qualifying workers are automatically enrolled into a workplace pension scheme from 22 to 18, and to allow the Government to increase the overall amounts being saved by abolishing the lower earnings limit of the qualifying earnings band for workplace pension contributions.

I acknowledge the work of the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden)—my office buddy in this place—who championed a previous Bill in this Session with the same objectives and has handed the baton on to me, to carry forward improvements to retirement provisions for millions of our fellow citizens. He is a doughty champion for people up and down our country, as well as those of North West Durham. We are very lucky to have such a Member in the House.

Order. The hon. Gentleman may be anticipating that we will get past this group of amendments, and we will then have a debate on clauses 1 and 2. I hope he will address his remarks to the specific amendments that we are debating at the moment.

I am more than happy to do that, and to return later on to the clauses, Sir Christopher.

I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow East for his amendments, which I understand aim to remove the regulation-making power to reduce the age of automatic enrolment, and replace it with a new minimum age of 16 for automatic enrolment and re-enrolment, and make consequential amendments. I am grateful for his explanation as to why he believes a lower minimum age would be beneficial. I would certainly support sitting down and discussing it with him at a later date, but this Bill seeks to amend the legislative framework for automatic enrolment to deliver the measures set out in the 2017 AE review, which considered the matter of a lower minimum age, weighed the evidence and concluded that starting from age 18 was the right approach. I am not convinced by the hon. Member’s arguments to depart from that finding today. As he knows, the Bill gives regulation-making powers to the Secretary of State to lower the age, subject to a statutory review and the use of the affirmative procedure. He will therefore have a further opportunity to make his case to colleagues in this House and other stakeholders when that consultation takes place. I look forward to working with him on that. If I may, I will return to some wider comments—

Order. We are discussing the amendments only. We will have the opportunity to discuss things more generally when we get to clause stand part.

Does the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West wish to participate in this debate or in the more general debate?

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Sir Christopher. I will address my remarks purely to the amendments.

I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow East for his work on the subject. He made a deeply personal and heartfelt point about his own experience. However, there has been a wide range of discussion and debate on the matter, and I believe that this afternoon we ought to focus on the Bill itself. I am aware that time is pressing, and given the matters being discussed in the main Chamber, I will leave my remarks at that for now.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher.

I have respect for the hon. Member for Glasgow East, as he knows. I listened carefully to what he said. He set out his personal story beforehand, and it is very powerful. I reiterate the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North and by the hon. Member for Reading East. This was looked at as part of the 2017 review, and there will be a statutory consultation to follow it up.

I must say that in moving the amendment, I had rather hoped that more consideration and debate would be given to it. With the greatest respect to the hon. Member for Reading East, I am baffled that the Labour party has nothing to say. Perhaps that is consistent with its policy positions these days. It was not that long ago that hordes of young people at Glastonbury were chanting the name of the former Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn). This rather strikes me as a bit odd. I understand that the Government have not always been the kind of folk who tend to have lots of lovely things to say about the labour movement or young people, but I am particularly baffled that this Labour party has nothing to say, nor any explanation as to why it has arrived at this policy position, other than to say, “We agree with that lot.”

With that in mind, I have sought to stimulate debate—rather unsuccessfully—but I look forward to the Bill making progress, I hope. I do not disagree with the Bill itself, as I said, but when we come to later stages I hope that we can agree to improve automatic enrolment further and to give this a little more consideration than it has been given today. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Thank you for educating me on Committee procedure, Sir Christopher. I clearly need to read up a lot more in “Erskine May”. I look forward to learning it at a later date.

I put clearly on the record my thanks to the Pensions Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks. This gives me the opportunity to thank her for securing Government support for the Bill, which she has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to do since entering her office. She has been working to get it into Parliament and, I hope, implemented as quickly as possible to ensure this for young people, apprentices, in particular, two of whom I have in my constituency office. Jessica and Mya are 18, paid well and will now be able to start building up their pension, which is totally brilliant for them. I look forward to having ensured that they provide for themselves in future.

The automatic enrolment framework was introduced by the Pensions Act 2008 and was gradually brought in for all employers across the UK, starting in 2012. By January 2023, 10.8 million people had been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension and 2.2 million employers were complying with their duties, with about an additional £33 billion in real terms saved in 2021, compared with 2012.

In 2017, the Government carried out a year-long review of automatic enrolment, with a panel of independent, expert advisers, resulting in a report, “Maintaining the momentum”, which set out recommendations to expand the workplace pensions framework. The proposed measures were widely supported by parliamentarians, stakeholders—including those representing employers and workers—and of course the pensions industry. The Bill is the first crucial step in implementing those recommendations, in that it will provide the necessary legislative powers. Helping people to save for later life should be one of the Government’s key priorities, particularly as the Bill will have a significant impact on the delivery of long-term investment to areas outside metropolitan London where there are fewer young people in part-time jobs.

This expansion of auto-enrolment will mean that everybody has their own pension in addition to their state pension in retirement, and has comfort in old age. Research from Onward shows that the Bill will have a positive impact in areas such as Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke. Around 25% of employees in my area are not auto-enrolled in a pension scheme. The Bill tackles that, creating more stability in the long term.

People who earn £9,000 from two separate jobs, and who work 12 to 18 hours a week, perhaps juggling their jobs around childcare or caring responsibilities, do not currently get the benefits of auto-enrolment at all. For part-time workers, the auto-enrolment rate stands at 60%. That compares with a rate of almost 90% among workers in full-time jobs. According to Onward, the Bill will result in roughly an extra third of the part-time workforce being auto-enrolled, which is an increase of 50%. Research by Onward suggests that the change will add almost £3.5 billion to the total life savings of people in our area. That will transform the life of everyone in Stoke-on-Trent, Kidsgrove, Talke, and the whole country. The Bill will help put cash into communities, and will help people to help themselves. It will provide extra private sector money to deliver the levelling up that we so desperately need.

Under the Bill, regulations can be made, using the affirmative procedure, to amend the automatic enrolment framework set out in the Pensions Act 2008. Those powers can be used to reduce the age of automatic enrolment from the current minimum of 22, and to abolish the lower earnings limit of the qualifying earnings band for pension contributions, so that contributions become payable from the first pound of earnings. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will be required to carry out a public consultation on the proposed use of the powers, and to report the findings to Parliament, before making regulations under the Bill. As the regulations will follow the affirmative procedure, hon. Members will have a vote on any proposed secondary legislation.

Clause 1 does five things through regulation-making powers. First, it allows the Secretary of State to amend the automatic enrolment framework to reduce the age at which an employer must automatically enrol a qualifying worker into a workplace pension scheme. Secondly, it allows the Secretary of State to reduce the age at which a qualifying worker can be automatically re-enrolled by an employer. Thirdly, it allows the Secretary of State to make reductions in the lower earnings limit for pensions contributions, abolish the lower earnings limit and, if required, abolish a category of worker known as workers without qualifying earnings, who can currently ask to be placed in workplace pensions but do not receive an employer contribution. This worker category would no longer exist if the lower earnings limit were abolished, because any worker automatically enrolled, or opting into a workplace pension, would, as a result of the abolition, be entitled to an employer contribution.

Fourthly, clause 1 allows the Secretary of State to modify the requirement in primary legislation for annual reviews of the lower earnings limit of the qualifying earnings band to take account of any changes to the lower earnings limit, and to make consequential amendments. Fifthly, if the Secretary of State makes changes to the Pensions Act 2008 under the clause, they must use the affirmative procedure, so that Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise and debate the secondary legislation. In addition, the Secretary of State must carry out a public consultation on the proposed use of the powers before making regulations, and must make a report to Parliament about the consultation.

Clause 2 does three things. First, it sets out the territorial extent of the legislation. By convention, Northern Ireland legislates separately to ensure that the automatic enrolment framework applies in the same way in Northern Ireland as it does in the rest of the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland Executive are expected to take forward their own legislation in respect of clause 1(2) to (4) prior to the regulation-making powers being used by the Secretary of State. Clause 2 also makes provision for the coming into force of the Bill, and sets out the Bill’s short title.

In conclusion, I am extremely pleased and proud that the Bill will set us on the path to the next successful chapter in the story of automatic enrolment. It will bring the undoubted benefits of pensions saving to our younger people, and to those hard-working, lower-paid workers who deserve the opportunity to build a more secure retirement for themselves and their family. It will help us to build a stronger, more inclusive retirement savings culture for future generations—for people from Kidsgrove to Consett, and across our United Kingdom.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair and to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I would like to make some brief comments of support, as this Bill sits in the reserved space and naturally will apply in Scotland on Royal Assent.

We have already seen how automatic enrolment has successfully brought many more members of the public into a pension scheme, which will only serve to benefit them in later life and in retirement. Particularly as we are facing a cost of living crisis and many people are finding it much harder to put away spare cash for a rainy day, it is important and right that contributing to a pension from a younger age is made easier. For the younger generation just starting out in the workplace, retirement looks like a speck on the horizon—too far off to think about for some time yet. I am sure we all remember feeling the same; pensions were the last thing on our mind at that age. It is crucial, however, to start making those savings earlier in life, so that there is less pressure later, as retirement approaches and people have the realisation that they have not saved as much as they need.

A general lack of understanding about pensions is a real problem when it comes to future planning. Research by the Social Market Foundation has shown that most of the population nearing retirement age do not actually know how much money they will need to see them through retirement. The typical person aged 50 to 64 has pension savings that are 58% short of what they require. That adds up to a total annual savings gap of £132 billion across the country for those reaching retirement age.

I hope that this legislation, if passed, will have some positive impacts for the harder-to-reach groups in society: women, people with disabilities, and ethnic minorities. They already have substantially lower-value pension pots on average. However, I wonder whether, when eliminating the lower earnings limit for contributions and laying regulations, the Secretary of State might consider this being for employers only, and having a higher threshold for employee contributions in the light of the current economic difficulties.

I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North on successfully steering his Bill through its legislative stages so far. Last year, I was lucky enough to see my own private Member’s Bill through to Royal Assent—incidentally, it was also on pensions policy—and I know how much hard work that is for the Member and for those supporting him, so well done.

Once again, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I commend the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North for his work on this Bill, and, indeed, other Members from across the House and the wider policy discussion about the importance of auto-enrolment. As the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West rightly said, pensions adequacy is a very important issue facing the whole of our society; it is a matter of great importance. We should, across the House, be encouraging people to save for their future, so it is important to debate this issue today.

I particularly want to say, in the time that I have, that auto-enrolment in itself is a great public policy success of the last few years. It dates back to the work of the Pensions Commission for the last Labour Government. The coalition Government implemented this change in 2012, and there has been growth in the number of people saving for a pension as a result. That is a commendable step forward.

However, pensions adequacy remains an issue and it is important for us to continue to go forward. In doing so, we need to work in a gradual, sensible and practical way to try to encourage auto-enrolment, and to work with stakeholders such as businesses, savers themselves and, indeed, society as a whole to try to take this work forward. In that spirit, I have some questions for the Minister.

This Bill will clearly offer real advantages to many younger people, who will be saving not only a greater sum, but from an earlier point in their life. That will help to build a much better pension pot for those pension savers. My questions for the Minister are primarily about the nature of the consultation, because as we have heard, it is hugely important that we work with pension savers themselves, with employers and with other stakeholder organisations to ensure that there is consensus on this issue and that policy is developed in a sensible way. Therefore I would like the Minister to explain to the Committee a little more about the nature of the consultation: in particular, what work the Department has done to encourage pension savers, especially young people, to be aware of the potential to save more for a pension in the future; the discussion that she has had with employers, both individual employers and employer organisations; and what she will do to continue to work with them, because when this legislation is implemented, it is a step forward for them—it is a greater contribution. We need to work with them.

I would like to know what work the Minister is doing with trade unions. They have a very important part to play in the roll-out of auto-enrolment. I was glad that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North mentioned that and acknowledged the significant work that they do. I am also interested in the consultation, in so far as it has reached out to advice organisations such as Which? and many others that have an important role in the wider money and savings debate. I hope that she is discussing with them the importance of this.

My second question is about when the Department hopes to use these powers. As has been said, the Bill allows the Government the power to do this and explains how it would happen through a statutory instrument. However, the Bill does not specify when this might happen. The Minister has talked in the past about the mid-2020s. I would be grateful if she clarified how she defines mid-2020s, and whether she will take into account any other factors such as the overall performance of the economy and the nature of any continuing cost of living crisis as we approach that time.

Once again, I thank the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North for his work on this matter, and I thank colleagues from across the House. I look forward to further answers from the Minister about the importance of consultation and bringing stakeholder groups with us on this important journey.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North and, in absentia, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham, on this excellent Bill, which will expand the benefits of automatic enrolment into workplace pensions to younger people and lower-paid workers.

I think we all agree that automatic enrolment has been a huge game changer in the workplace pension savings market over the past decade. Private sector workplace pension participation among eligible employees has increased by 44 percentage points since 2012, to 86% in 2021. As has been mentioned a couple of times, it has been especially transformative for women, low earners and young people, who historically have been poorly served by or excluded from workplace pensions. The proportion of women in the private sector participating in a workplace pension reached 87% in 2021, above that of men and more than double what it was in 2012.

Thanks to automatic enrolment, the overwhelming majority of eligible workers are now enrolled in a workplace pension, saving an asset for the future. Automatic enrolment is re-establishing a culture of retirement saving for a new generation. However, we know that there is more to do. The Government have made it clear that their ambition has always been to deliver on the 2017 automatic enrolment review measures. The review proposed two key measures: extending AE to young adults aged 18 to 21 by lowering the age criteria for enrolment; and removing the lower earnings limit, which would improve saving levels among low and moderate earners.

Since I took up my role as Minister for Pensions, I have been determined to make progress on AE expansion, and I am therefore delighted to confirm that the Government are supporting my hon. Friend’s Bill to do exactly that. The legislation will mean that younger workers and those who are in lower-paid employment—often because they work part time owing to personal circumstances, such as caring responsibilities—will be able to participate fully in automatic enrolment. For the first time, every worker will benefit from an employment contribution if they are enrolled or opt in; that is key to boosting the overall amounts being saved into a workplace pension. The powers in this Bill allow a Government-defined authority to deliver the changes set out in the 2017 review reforms, which Parliament has debated on numerous occasions, and I think there is broad agreement that it should become law.

On the questions from the hon. Member for Reading East, the Government are clear that implementing the expansion of automatic enrolment can only take place following consultation. That will be a consultation on the implementation approach and the timetable. He mentioned employer and employee engagement in particular. We absolutely need a full comms campaign, and—to the points raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow East—we could also look at what we can do for 16-year-olds. Even if we do not get quite where the hon. Member for Glasgow East wants us to with the age, I think there is more we can do to encourage them to opt in. We can discuss that as part of the consultation.

Trade unions were part of the original 2017 work, and I am very grateful to them for that. We have spoken to them frequently since, as we have to employer organisations. We will hold a series of roundtables now as we move towards the consultation, and we will involve them in the consultation. On timing, I would like to launch the consultation in the autumn, with this Bill going through, I hope, in the near future. I cannot say anything further than “mid-2020s”, I am afraid, but as soon as I am in a position to update the hon. Member for Reading East, I will of course do so.

Our objective is to maintain the broad political consensus for workplace pensions, which has been an important part of the success of the reforms since the beginning. The approach taken in the Bill to guarantee meaningful and detailed consultation to help implement the changes will help to build enduring support for this important work to boost the retirement aspirations of millions of our fellow citizens. Once again, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North and I commend the Bill to the Committee.

May I put on record my thanks to you, Sir Christopher, and to everyone who has contributed to this short, constructive debate? I thank all Members who agreed to serve on the Committee, in particular the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, who has become a good friend in the House and a done a lot on pensions. Also, he may not want to admit it, but the hon. Member for Glasgow East and I are good friends, but I am sure that he will not put that on any endorsement leaflets any time soon.

On a point of order, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the Committee inadvertently. We cannot have that on the record; my constituents will deselect me.

I look forward to doing a podcast with the hon. Gentleman very soon to discuss all the great work that he does in the House as a SNP Member.

The Bill makes certain that people in areas such as Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, where nearly one in four people are not auto-enrolled in a pension, will have more financial security in the long term. It will simplify the process to mean that for just a few pounds a week, and through the power of compound interest, people could be £30,000 better off in retirement. That is absolutely transformative, which is why the Bill is critical.

I also thank the hon. Member for Reading East, whom I hugely admire in the House. I assure him that I too will keep the Government’s feet to the fire from the Government Benches so that we get an actual implementation date, because I do not like references to wishy-washy mid-2020s. I want to see a date firmly in writing. I am delighted that the consultation will take place in the autumn and I look forward then to hearing about a firm date.

I want to finish by again thanking my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham—he deserves another shout-out—for his support throughout the passage of the Bill and for putting the case forward with Onward, a fantastic think-tank, which has done a lot of work with him to put the argument. I am delighted and proud that he was very kind in asking me to carry on his great work as he ascended to higher office and as I descended at the same time. I thank the Minister for getting the Bill supported by the Government, and for how she has worked with me, officials and obviously the Treasury, twisting arms wherever necessary to get the Bill over the line and, I hope, on the statute book.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill to the House.

On a point of order, Sir Christopher. I thank you for chairing the proceedings in Committee and pay tribute to the Clerk, Chris Wilson, for his help in drafting amendments. I look forward to the Bill proceeding to the other House.

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point of order, and I am sure that he speaks for everyone in expressing thanks to everybody. I add to that thanks to our hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), who has facilitated more progress on Private Members’ Bills during this Session than I think we have ever seen in the past.

Today is a very poignant day to be debating this particular Bill because the Chancellor has made quite an important announcement on the issue of pensions. As I was leaving the Chamber in order to be on time in this Committee a number of people said, “Now you are going off to top up your pension immediately following the announcement.” That is by the bye. I thank everyone for attending the Committee sitting, and congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North on introducing the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose.