HC Deb 23 July 1996 vol 282 cc136-7
8. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what steps he is taking to improve the regulation of occupational pensions. [36963]

Mr. Heald

The Pensions Act 1995 will improve security for occupational pension scheme members and increase confidence in private pension provision, but without imposing undue burdens on employers or schemes.

Mrs. Lait

Can my hon. Friend confirm that, during the Bill's passage last year, Labour Members tabled more than 700 amendments, the bulk of which would have increased regulation of occupational pensions? Does he agree that that burdensome and over-regulatory approach constitutes yet another new danger from new Labour?

Mr. Heald

As usual, my hon. Friend is right. In fact, Labour Members tabled not 700 but 740 amendments, most of which would have added to regulation. In the debate the other night, they were doing it again—proposing further regulations. There is danger in this. Over-regulation can put employers off setting up schemes and continuing with them. New Labour, new danger.

Mr. Clapham

The Minister will be aware that, although salary-based schemes provide a minimum pension, the new money purchase schemes that many people have been encouraged to join since 1988 do not. What steps is he taking to improve the benefits provided by contracted-out money purchase schemes?

Mr. Heald

All forms of private pension provision have something to recommend them in individual cases. Salary-related schemes provide excellent benefits and, for some people, so do money purchase schemes, which have the advantage of being more flexible. The Government's policy has been to encourage such flexibility while providing the security that pensioners need if they are to have confidence in the system. The rebates announced earlier this year build on that. Let us not forget that the Labour party is talking about introducing schemes run by trade unions, which would undermine what the Government have done, and involve a guaranteed! minimum pension that would cost up to £5 billion and a flexible decade of retirement costing £15 billion.