HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc188-90
8. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many representations she has received on the subject of the Social Security Act 1973 since her announcement on the State Reserve Scheme on 7th May 1974.

Mr. O'Malley

About 50 letters.

Mr. McCrindle

Is the Minister aware that there was widespread disappointment in the pensions industry that it was not consulted by the Secretary of State before her announcement about the State Reserve Scheme on 7th May? With a view to maintaining a close association with the pensions industry, which is clearly desirable whatever Government are in power, will the Minister consider producing not a White Paper, with hard and fast proposals from the Government, but a Green Paper, as a consultative document enabling the widest possible agreement to exist between the Government and the pensions industry before these proposals take legislative form?

Mr. O'Malley

The hon. Gentleman's proposal would run counter to the desire which I thought existed on both sides of the House, that new pension proposals and their implementation should be made at the earliest possible opportunity. I therefore envisage—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find this a situation that is satisfactory to him—that the Government, in a position in which for nearly 10 years both organisations and Governments have gone over the ground in great detail, should produce a White Paper which should form the basis of consultations with organisations outside the House.

Sir John Hall

In view of the confusion that now exists and of the urgency of the matter, may I ask the hon. Gentleman when the White Paper which we are anxiously awaiting is likely to be published?

Mr. O'Malley

As soon as possible. We hope that it will be published in the very near future.

Sir G. Howe

I declare an interest, as a director of a life assurance company, but on behalf of many employers who have devoted much effort, time and expense to the preparation of schemes under the existing legislation, and on behalf of many groups of workers who have been looking forward to the fulfilment of those schemes, I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he ought not to invite his right hon. Friend to reconsider the decision not to allow the 1973 Act scheme to proceed. Does he not recognise that the effect of a still further round of delay will complete the expiry of 13 wasted years of pensions policy since a previous Labour Government failed, for the first time, to tackle the task?

Mr. O'Malley

I could not recommend my right hon. Friend to reconsider the matter as the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposes. I realise that a substantial amount of work has been put in by organisers of occupational pension schemes as a result of the 1973 Act, but the reserve scheme was an object of derision even in the insurance industry, in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just declared an interest. Certainly the present Government would not be prepared to consider the introduction of a scheme which would mean that even when it matured after 40 years there were still at least as many retirement pensioners dependent on means-tested supplementary benefit as there are today, and perhaps more.