HC Deb 27 February 2004 vol 418 cc606-7W
Mrs. Iris Robinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how the Pensions Bill will affect people in Northern Ireland; and whether there will be any assistance to those who have lost out in pension schemes in the past. [156099]

Malcolm Wicks

Pensions legislation is a devolved matter to Northern Ireland. The provisions of the Pensions Bill therefore generally extend only to Great Britain. The exceptions to this are set out in clause 246, which specifies the provisions that also extend to Northern Ireland. These include those establishing the two new Non-Departmental Public Bodies, The Pensions Regulator and the Board of the Pension Protection Fund, which—as currently with the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority and the Pensions Compensation Board—will operate throughout the United Kingdom, but with functions relating to Northern Ireland conferred by Northern Ireland legislation.

Clause 247 allows provision corresponding to the Pensions Bill to be made for Northern Ireland by Order in Council subject to negative resolution.

The Government remains sympathetic to all those people who will not receive the pension they worked so hard to build up for their future retirement. Ministers have been meeting those affected by pension losses in order to understand their plight and to listen to suggestions regarding assistance ahead of the Pension Protection Fund's introduction.

We are exploring all the suggestions that have been put to us and are considering them in depth. But there are complex arguments on both sides so we need to consider very carefully what the appropriate course of action should be.

It would be very cruel to raise expectations for these people who have suffered such a dramatic blow to their security in retirement, if we cannot then provide assistance.