HC Deb 11 January 1977 vol 923 cc1235-6
4. Dr. McDonald

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress he has made with consultations on member participation in occupational pension schemes; and when the Government proposes to introduce legislation on this topic.

Mr. Ennals

We have had extensive and productive consultations—which are still continuing—with organisations representing many shades of opinion. Legislation will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time permits.

Dr. McDonald

In view of the importance of these proposals and the extension of industrial democracy, and in view of their importance to workers since part of their own wages is used for investment purposes in occupational pension schemes, cannot we have a firm date for the introduction of these proposals?

Mr. Ennals

I agree with my hon. Friend about the great importance of these proposals. Increasingly, workers and members of schemes are demanding a say in how what is, after all, deferred pay is administered. I agree with my hon. Friend's sense of urgency. I cannot give a date. I said on 14th November that the Government wanted to introduce a Bill as soon as time was available. It is only time that is the problem. Consultation will have to continue before we reach the state of introducing legislation.

Mr. Boscawen

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we want more information, as soon as possible, about whether schemes will be introduced under a system of voluntary or statutory participation? People want to know what it is to be.

Mr. Ennals

We are to introduce a new report following the White Paper published before. On the central issue, in terms of representation, the views of the Government have not changed; it is the Government's view that effective representation should be achieved through recognised independent trade unions. But the method of implementing this is a matter that we are considering with those especially concerned.

Mr. McCrindle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people who are entirely behind the idea of membership participation in occupational pension schemes continue to take exception to the Government's proposals that membership participation must be only through trade unions? Will not he reconsider this matter yet again and say that although legislation will require membership participation it will not be on the basis of membership of a trade union?

Mr. Ennals

I will not give that assurance. That would break with precedent that we have already established in the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Employment Protection Act. I find it very difficult to uncover evidence, or even people who will say that it is their view, that those who are nominated by trade unions are likely to act irresponsibly or without regard to the best interests of the membership as a whole. They are obliged to do so under trust law.