HC Deb 10 December 1985 vol 88 cc745-6
1. Mrs. Currie

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress is being made with the extension of pension ownership.

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Norman Fowler)

Major improvements in benefits for early leavers from pension schemes in the Social Security Act 1985 will come into effect on 1 January 1986. These will mean that early leavers' rights are protected against inflation and there will be a new right to a transfer value. These measures correct a major injustice affecting members of occupational schemes.

Mrs. Currie

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Would he care to hazard a guess as to how many more people are likely in future to have their own pensions as a result of legislation passed in this Parliament?

Mr. Fowler

I wish to make it absolutely clear that we want to see a major extension of occupational pension schemes. About 11 million people who are already in schemes will stand at some stage to gain from the reforms which we have already passed into legislation.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Secretary of State reward those who have provided themselves with small private pensions by withdrawing the proposal to reduce housing benefit by £500 million, as that proposal will strike at those very people?

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman must wait to see what the White Paper states about housing benefit. He need be in no doubt that we intend to expand and extend occupational schemes so far as it is possible for that to be done.

Mr. McCrindle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that any move into the desirable area of personal portable pensions will rely to a considerable degree on the tax inducements which may be forthcoming? May we have an assurance in advance of the White Paper—I appreciate that my right hon. Friend cannot say much about that today—that consultation will take place between himself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Fowler

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's interest in pensions. He will appreciate that the Chancellor and I share the aim of seeing a further extension of occupational pensions.

Mrs. Beckett

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when he issued his consultation document on personal pensions he was careful to draw attention to the fact that under the proposals employees would bear the risk that is now borne either by employers or by the state? While lie understandably wishes to concentrate on what people stand to gain from what the Government have done, will he acknowledge that many people stand to lose from the changes that he proposes to make?

Mr. Fowler

No, I will riot acknowledge that. The hon. Lady should refer to one of the original documents that we published at the time of the inquiry on retirement, which showed that it was the ambition and aim of the vast majority of people in Britain to have an occupational or personal pension of their own, and that is what the Government desire.