Guy Opperman [V]
I would like to thank all colleagues for their contributions. This is a debate on the Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2021, and there was limited discussion of that, but there was widespread discussion of many other aspects of pensions legislation, some of which related to the previous debate.
The shadow spokesman, the hon. Member for Reading East (Matt Rodda), raised many particular policies that he wishes to campaign on, and I welcome those efforts. He will discover that many of the policies that he raised were issues that were debated, discussed and in fact legislated on by the Labour Government of 1997 to 2010. Indeed, the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), was the Pensions Minister in, I believe, 2008 and held my job in a previous Labour Government.
The shadow Minister raised a number of issues in respect of DB support, climate change and pension scams. Clauses 123, 124 and 125 of the Pension Schemes Bill take forward those three issues. We have set out, both in the White Paper and in the legislation, the extensive work that we are doing to support DB on an ongoing basis, and I have worked extensively over the last three to four months with many of the proponents of open DB schemes and many of the organisations that wish to continue the support. We have also worked very hard with the Pensions Regulator, and that work continues on an ongoing basis.
The shadow Minister is right to raise climate change as a vital issue. We believe that we have made pensions safer, better and greener. The clause 124 regulations will be forthcoming. Indeed, we have already brought forward the response to the consultation in respect of the taskforce on climate-related financial disclosures, which makes us the world’s first country to legislate for TCFD in respect of climate change and pensions.
Finally, on pension scams, clearly the shadow Minister is aware of the extensive discussion and debate that we had before the Work and Pensions Committee last week, and the extensive work that we have done to address the pension transfer problem, which is the key area that the DWP can address. I believe that we will be able to legislate and regulate, and have the power this autumn to ensure that those transfers are stopped, as I set out in much greater detail at the Work and Pensions Committee.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) raised an issue both in the previous debate and in this debate in respect of overseas pensions. He will know that, sadly, the policy on uprating of UK state pensions paid overseas has been the policy of successive Governments of different political persuasions for over 70 years, since world war two. I do not have good news to tell him, I am afraid. There is no intention that I am aware of for this Government to change that policy.
The hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) made his first contribution as shadow Minister and I, again, welcome him to his place. I look forward to visiting Scotland, when the pandemic allows, to campaign at length leading up to May. In respect of the key issue that he raised, I gave extensive evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee a week or so ago on pension credit. There is much that we are trying to do to progress that, whether in the form of Government communications or our work with the BBC. The fact of the matter is that pension credit is a benefit introduced by the Labour Government that has never achieved more than 70% of take-up. All Governments, including this Government and myself, want greater take-up of pension credit, and we are definitely doing everything possible to try to increase it.
The Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee addressed in detail a particular point on the Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order and the history of that legislation. He addressed the ombudsman’s findings relating to two individuals. Concerns have been raised regarding the way that the permanent secretary has dealt with correspondence to the Work and Pensions Committee and/or the ombudsman. I was not aware of that issue until yesterday. Clearly it is for the permanent secretary to respond. On the quality of the original policy formulated from January 2013 by Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister, I cannot comment at this stage, but I reject any criticism of a policy that was clearly scrutinised and legislated for by both Houses before it was implemented.
The hon. Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain) raised open DB. I assure her that we continue to work extensively with the Pensions Regulator on those issues. Although I welcome the comments of the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), I do not think that I can amplify any of the other matters thus far. With those comments, I commend the draft order to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That the draft Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2021, which was laid before this House on 18 January, be approved.