HC Deb 01 July 2002 vol 388 cc10-1
4. Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North)

When he expects to publish the Pickering report; and if he will make a statement. [63387]

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith)

Last September, my predecessor asked Alan Pickering, former chairman of the National Association of Pension Funds, to carry out an independent review of private pensions legislation. His report will be published in the next few weeks.

Mr. Gardiner

Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the biggest barriers to pension provision is the sheer complexity of the products on offer? Does he agree that that often makes it difficult for employees properly to assess and compare the products that are available? Does he also agree that, no matter what else Pickering may bring, one of the most vital things that should come from the report is simplification of the whole system?

Mr. Smith

Yes, my hon. Friend is right. Without wanting to anticipate Alan Pickering's report, I think that it is crucial that employees are in a much better position to make informed choices. That requires a simpler range of products and the roll-out of comprehensive pension forecasts. That is why Alan Pickering was asked to report to Ministers with proposals for simplifying pensions regulation while ensuring that pension scheme members are properly protected. That is the crucial balance to get right.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

The Pickering report has been wildly trailed in the press, especially in the Financial Times. Mr. Pickering addressed the all-party group on occupational pensions only a few days age. He confirmed that one idea is to give employers the right to make membership of employer schemes mandatory. How would that sit with those employees who already have substantial personal pensions?

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman's expertise in this matter is greatly and widely respected in the House. I hope that he will understand when I say that I will not be drawn into speculation about Alan Pickering's report. We will give careful consideration to all his recommendations, and we will listen carefully to the response from the public, the pensions industry, employers and trade unions.