HC Deb 05 July 1995 vol 263 c451
Mr. Dewar

I beg to move amendment No. 26, in page 75, line 21, at end insert 'or any proceedings for breach of trust in relation to an occupational pension scheme'. The amendment is of some significance and worth. I am fairly confident about that, but then I normally am when I move an amendment. However, in a sense it is second best and related to the arguments by the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Sir A. Bowden) who said that the remit of the regulatory body should be extended and that it should be able to deal with breaches of trust law. We canvassed that matter in Committee with the kind of success that the hon. Gentleman had a few minutes ago. As that door is closed, it seems reasonable to make efforts to ensure the speeding up of disputes about trust law.

The clause simply lists and defines the properly limited power of the regulatory authority to make disclosure of information, and that should be extended a little by allowing the release of information that may be relevant to an allegation and proceedings pursuant to it of a breach of trust law. That is the intended effect of the amendment. It does not widen the powers of OPRA but ensures that that regulatory authority is able to help either the pension ombudsman, who has a remit, presumably if the parties believe that the dispute can be decided by a third party, an honest broker, or the courts if, sadly, because that is always an expensive and time-consuming business, the matter has to go to the courts for proof. In either category, it should be possible for the regulatory authority to make the information available, although normally that disclosure would not be possible if it were not specifically endorsed as a proper course of action by the Bill.

I take the view—although I know that the Minister does not—that it would be desirable to give the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority such wider powers. I know that he wishes to confine OPRA to a very narrow enforcement role. Having said that and having lost the battle to—I could hardly say the massed ranks of the Conservative party—the small group of hon. Members who made up the Minister's majority in Committee, it seems sensible to bring in this element of flexibility in at least allowing disclosure in the circumstances that I have described. I hope that that is a fair summary of the amendment.

8 pm

Mr. Arbuthnot

My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Sir A. Bowden) spoke earlier about his concerns over OPRA having powers to regulate breaches of trust law. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) is always persuasive, but on this amendment he has been more persuasive than usual.

In view of the concerns which have been raised and also because of the need to ensure that restricted information in connection with any proceedings for breach of trust could bolster the regulatory regime, we agree that the amendment would add some value to the Bill. Therefore, unusually—I hope not uniquely—I would be delighted to accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to

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