HC Deb 26 July 1983 vol 46 cc1036-7
8. Mr. Nelson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take steps to promote the interests of members of occupational pension schemes.

The Minister for Social Security (Dr. Rhodes Boyson)

I shall do whatever I reasonably can to promote the interests of members of occupational pension schemes.

Mr. Nelson

Has my hon. Friend seen the latest attempts of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) to re-establish his Left-wing credentials by proposing that pension funds, the savings of millions of people, should be diverted into the Labour party's state investment plans? Does my hon. Friend agree that if such a proposition were ever to be presented to the British electorate the Labour party would get exactly the same verdict as it did at the general election?

Dr. Boyson

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, at the general election that prospectus was put before the British public. The idea that 10 per cent. of pension funds affecting 11.5 million people should go into a national investment bank to be used by the Government was one of the reasons why the Labour party lost the general election. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to it in a speech at that time.

Mr. Ward

What progress is being made to ensure that occupational pension schemes do not prevent mobility of labour?

Dr. Boyson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. The issue of early leavers is an important matter. We have called a conference for 14 September with all the interested parties to see whether we can progress on this matter with voluntary action. If that is not possible, however, we shall have to take other action.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Does the Minister agree that one of the essential aspects of an occupational pension scheme is that people can make contributions throughout their working lives? Is it not a crazy system for British pension money to be invested abroad to make products which in turn put people out of work in this country, so making it impossible for them to complete their pension contributions?

Dr. Boyson

I think that the first responsibility of those who are managing pension funds is to maximise the income so that contributors can get a good pension when they retire. I am sure that the public, including the hon. Gentleman's constituents, who are involved in pension funds, would agree with that. The hon. Gentleman referred to people contributing throughout their working lives. We are concerned that pension funds are responsive to those who put their money in. We are considering the responsiveness of the schemes to their clients.

Mr. John

The Minister should know that this has been a problem for many years. Is he aware that the CBI has calculated that more than 90 per cent. of people change their jobs during their lifetime? Does he agree with the CBI's view that a system which subsidises the few by penalising the many cannot last? How many more conferences do the Government intend to hold before that truth is realised and rammed home?

Dr. Boyson

I do not remember the Labour party doing anything about this matter when it was in Government. We have had a report from the Occupational Pensions Board. We have similarly called a conference and, as my right hon. Friend said last year, we would prefer early leavers to be dealt with voluntarily, but if not we will take legislative action. That is something that the Labour party never even talked about.

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