HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc198-200
16. Mr. Stanley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what consultations she is having with the TUC on the provision of pensions for those not included in good occupational schemes.

Mr. O'Malley

The TUC has made its views known on a number of matters concerning the future shape of pensions, and we plan to publish a White Paper on the Government's proposals as soon as possible. This will then form the basis for consultation and discussion.

Mr. Stanley

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most beneficial effects of the 1973 Social Security Act was that it caused employers in both the public and private sectors considerably to improve and extend their existing occupational pension schemes? Is it not the case that as a result of the Secretary of State's statement this pressure to improve and extend schemes has now disappeared, and that, as a result, as from next April many millions of working people will be worse off, as regards pension entitlement, than they would otherwise have been?

Mr. O'Malley

As the Question refers to the TUC, the hon. Gentleman might at least have taken the trouble to find out its views on the 1973 Act. The TUC was bitterly critical of the reserve scheme, the treatment of women, and the very low conditions set by the previous Government in their 1973 Act.

Secondly, in so far as the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question relates to the level of pensions which would have accrued under the reserve scheme and minimum conditions, certainly those pensions would not have been available next year, and the amount of pension built up, particularly for the older generation—men over 45 and women over 40—would have been pitifully small and, in the view of informed commentators in the insurance industry, derisory.

Mr. George Cunningham

Does my hon. Friend agree that the 1973 scheme was grossly defective as regards transferability? Will he assure us that the new scheme introduced by the present Government will be a great improvement in that respect?

Mr. O'Malley

My hon. Friend, who has a detailed knowledge of these matters, realises that there are formidable problems which affect the question of transferability. However, I can give the assurance that the Government will take both preservation and transferability into account in their review leading up to the publication of the White Paper.

Mr. Raison

Will the hon. Gentleman say categorically whether he is having consultations with the TUC on the matter? If he is, is he having consultations with anyone else, or is this one more example where only the TUC has a say?

Mr. O'Malley

We on the Government side of the House do not have the hostility towards the TUC and the trade union movement that the hon. Gentleman has. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I shall answer the question. Conservative Members are making assumptions too soon. I shall answer the hon. Gentleman directly, but that first remark needed to be made. Since this Government came to power there have been three general meetings with representatives of the TUC in my Department. I have held the meetings with the TUC, and they have been on matters raised by the TUC. There have been three meetings with the CBI on a similar basis.