Finance (No. 2) Bill Debate

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Department: HM Treasury

Finance (No. 2) Bill

Lord Davies of Brixton Excerpts
Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, it is such a pleasure to follow the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Hazarika, of Coatbridge—Ayesha Hazarika. We must all congratulate her on a tremendous speech; hers is a particularly tough act to follow. It is clear from her speech and biography that she has a sound political background, but she also has, to use Denis Healey’s memorable word, a hinterland—more experience.

I am particularly pleased to welcome my noble friend as a fellow resident of Brixton and a fellow graduate of the University of Hull, where she studied law. My recollection—it is a long time ago—is that the law students were particularly serious and I am glad to say that she breaks that convention. Clearly, they are important influences, but I suspect that most noble Lords will be keen to talk to my noble friend about her appearances on “Have I Got News For You”.

She has demonstrated that she will be a popular speaker. People may well come for the jokes, but they will stay for the serious political points being made. To conclude this part of my speech, it is important that she is here, particularly on this side of the Chamber, representing an underrepresented group: people under 50.

I turn now to the content of the Bill. I have found that speaking on finance Bills, even though there is nothing we can actually do, is the ideal opportunity to seize the attention of the Minister and, through her, the officials, on points which perhaps do not get sufficient coverage. I want to talk about Clause 24 on collective money purchase arrangements. I can read the Explanatory Notes, but when I try to understand what the amendment does, my mind glazes over. I do not know whether the Minister has a better understanding of what it does, but I think it illustrates two points.

First, the Government have still to get their act together on the introduction of this new type of pension scheme. Many of us with considerable experience on pensions believe that this is important for the future development of pension coverage across the economy, yet we are still getting these regulation-making powers. It is important to understand that this does not make any actual changes but, principally, creates further regulation powers, and we will have to wait for the regulations to understand what will happen. Will the Minister accept that it is a matter of priority to get this law straight, so that people can get on with introducing these important new types of schemes?

The second point, which is narrower, is contained in the heading “Collective money purchase arrangements”. Nobody in the pensions arena talks about collective money purchase arrangements; they always talk about collective defined contributions schemes. That is what they are, yet for some bizarre reason, lost in the policy-making process, we have ended up with them legally being described as collective money purchase arrangements—which in fact is a misleading title. The whole point of collective defined contribution schemes is contained in the objective of providing a pension. Calling them collective money purchase schemes gives the appearance that they are simply savings arrangements, with the infamous freedom of choice when people get to retirement. What people want is pensions. Adopting this terminology is grossly misleading about where this area of policy has to go.

The ship has sailed; it is in the legislation—I think there were 300 references to collective money purchase arrangements in the pensions Bill—but I say to the Minister that the Treasury and the Pensions Regulator together need to get a clear understanding of the terminology here. This initiative is about providing pensions; it is not about money purchase.