HC Deb 25 October 1999 vol 336 cc685-6
1. Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

What criteria he plans to issue to investment managers on investment policy for stakeholder pensions. [93744]

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Mr. Jeff Rooker)

As with existing pension arrangements, the overall investment policy for stakeholder pensions will be a matter for those running the schemes. We propose that schemes should prepare a statement of investment principles, including social, environmental and ethical considerations, but policy action will be up to those running the schemes.

Mrs. Lait

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Can he assure me that all pension trustees will have the absolute right to manage pension funds to achieve the best possible return for their pensioners, and that the pensions will not be affected by considerations other than the right of best return?

Mr. Rooker

Yes, I can give the hon. Lady that assurance.

Mr. Michael Trend (Windsor)

I welcome the Minister to his first Question Time in his current capacity. On appointment, he was the fourth pensions Minister in 27 months, so I wish him luck.

I understand that the Minister may be reluctant to adopt a position that is being urged on him by the Opposition, but has he decided whether pensioners, and stakeholder pensioners in particular, should be obliged to take their pension in the form of annuity at the age of 75, or whether he intends to sweep away that rule for stakeholder and other appropriate pensions?

Mr. Rooker

Neither I nor any of my colleagues in government have taken the approach of simply sweeping away ideas and suggestions from the Opposition. There is plenty evidence of that in legislation that has gone through the House. The hon. Gentleman will understand that, given the changes made in the other place to a Bill that has not yet completed its passage through the other place, I cannot answer his question in detail.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North)

May I take it from my hon. Friend's reply that he is quite happy for pension funds to invest in tobacco companies?

Mr. Rooker

It is for those who manage the funds and the trustees in charge of the funds to make such decisions. They are the ones who are accountable, not Ministers.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

What provision will the Government make to ensure that adequate advice is available to those who take out stakeholder pensions? According to the Financial Times, no less than half the population of the United Kingdom have total savings of less than £750. Is that not a disturbing comment on the lack of real disposable income, and does that not make it all the more important that the investment choices to be made through a stakeholder pension are properly made?

Mr. Rooker

I saw the report in the Financial Times, although I have not seen the document to which it refers. I got the impression under the previous Government that everyone was awash with funds. The vast majority of those at whom stakeholder pensions are targeted—people on moderate earnings, say between £10,000 and £20,000 a year—have no second pension provision. We estimate that their total earnings amount to £60 billion a year, and we believe that allowances and second pension provision can be made from that.

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