HC Deb 09 February 2004 vol 417 cc1115-6
14. Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con)

When he last met representatives of trade unions to discuss the future of occupational pension schemes. [153184]

The Minister for Pensions (Malcolm Wicks)

We have frequent contacts with trade unions and other partners concerning pensions. For example, 1 met the general secretary of the TUC, Brendan Barber, shortly before Christmas. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met members of the TUC last week to discuss issues concerning women and pensions.

Mr. Luff

I am glad to hear that the Government are talking to representatives of workers, such as workers affected by the collapse of company pension schemes. In those discussions with trade unions and victims of collapsed schemes such as Kalamazoo, which affected many of my constituents, would it not help us if we knew the exact cost of retrospective compensation? At Question Time a month ago, the Secretary of State said in answer to a question from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg): These are precisely the issues that the Government have been looking into. When I am in a position to report to the House on the outcome of these inquiries and deliberations, I shall of course do so."—[Official Report, 12 January 2004; Vol.416, c. 514.] When will we know the cost of retrospective compensation?

Malcolm Wicks

In terms of listening to sensible suggestions and reflecting on these matters, the issue of cost is obviously vital. That is why it is a complex issue. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that cost issues must be considered in this context. Sadly, I cannot add to what has been said by me and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this afternoon on this important issue.

Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab)

Why did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State say that he is reluctant to compensate occupational pensioners retrospectively because a substantial proportion of the public are not occupational pensioners, when 100 per cent. of average families are paying £16 a week in compensation and subsidies to farmers even though 99 per cent. of them are not farmers?

Malcolm Wicks

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said that that issue—that most taxpayers are probably not members of final salary schemes—is one that we must take into account in assessing the proposals that are put to us.