Debates between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 11th July 2022

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call shadow Minister Matt Rodda.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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Following the resignation of the Prime Minister, there is a real risk that the House turns in on itself. I want to draw the Minister’s attention to the serious cost of living crisis facing families and pensioners in this country. Sadly, the Government broke their promise to keep the triple lock on the state pension at the very time that inflation was starting to rise. As a result, pensioners struggling to get by have each lost more than £500 this year. How can the Minister possibly justify letting down pensioners in this way?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I was the Minister who saw that the Labour party at the time did not object to our taking the actions we did in respect of the triple lock. The hon. Gentleman talks about a loss but, as he knows, the state pension was less than £100 in 2009, before the Government changed in 2010. He also knows that we have now virtually doubled the state pension and that there is in excess of £1,500 extra money going to pensioners this year, by reason of the winter fuel payment, the cost of living support for those who are most vulnerable, the council tax rebate worth £150 and the energy support fund, which arrives on or around 1 October.

Draft Occupational Pension Schemes (Governance and Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 4th July 2022

(1 month, 1 week ago)

General Committees
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Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I thank colleagues for their speeches and support. I will not necessarily respond to any of the hon. Lady’s comments, because she supports the regulations and I entirely accept that the Work and Pensions Committee did look at the matter. We think that we have acted having done all the due consultation required by the Government.

I think it a good thing that the monitoring of compliance is being passed from the CMA to the Pensions Regulator. I meet the TPR regularly—indeed, I met its chair, Sarah Smart, only today. That will bring monitoring much more within the ambit of the DWP. We have an independent regulator for a reason, but it is important that the Government, through a Work and Pensions Minister, hold it to account. That is why I think monitoring will be way better.

I refute the idea of slippage entirely. Everything that the Government do is perfect, as we know, and we are moving forward at a serene pace. I am certain that these things are all going in a perfect way. The serious point is about levels of engagement by trustees, which are not good enough at present. We are doing a huge amount on this, including these regulations and the enhanced chair’s statement, for example. The hon. Gentleman follows my every pronouncement with great glee, so he will be aware that on 1 November, we will do a detailed value-for-money assessment consultation, which will genuinely bring together a host of different obligations on trustees to ensure that they evaluate outcomes for members in a way that, at present, is not done to the degree that I and the Government would like. That is what we are trying to achieve.

There are other bits and bobs. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman engaged in Pension Credit Awareness Day on 15 June, and he will be aware that the pension engagement season starts in September and October. Their aim is to get trustees much more behind engagement with members, but that is a constant struggle.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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Can the Minister offer some additional assurances on the question of small pension funds? The scale of such funds can cause particular difficulties for trustees.

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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The hon. Gentleman is aware of all the consultations that we have done, so he will know that following the regulations that we passed previously, smaller pension funds—those of up to £100 million—are now judged on value-for-money outcomes. My strong view is that there should unquestionably be greater consolidation. It is only through size that we can get greater expertise, greater monitoring of performance and greater response to members. That is a work in progress.

We are dramatically reducing the number of pension schemes through more and more consolidation. I encourage trustees to consider it, particularly if they are in any doubt about whether they are getting value for money for their members. We are asking the Pensions Regulator to apply that pressure to trustees to ensure that members ultimately get better outcomes, which is what we all want. That is dependent on trustees performing their job, but that is difficult in small schemes, which is why we are encouraging them to merge, to put it bluntly.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 6th June 2022

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister, Matt Rodda.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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The cost of living crisis is leaving families and pensioners wondering how on earth they will make ends meet. Inflation is running at 11% for everyday goods, and petrol is now nearly £2 a litre, yet the Government’s response has favoured the wealthier while failing those in greatest need. Will the Minister explain why second home owners were offered extra help while at the very same time the Government have yet to drive up the take-up of pension credit? Will he also now publish the advice he received from his own civil servants that warned of the effect of this deeply unfair policy?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I do not believe that £37 billion of support should be sneered at. The Chancellor set out £22 billion of support in the spring and a further £15 billion of support last month; that includes £650 on top of the pension credit from July, and the winter fuel payment of £300 going to 8.2 million households. I strongly believe that shows that the Government are taking serious action to support the most vulnerable.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 21st March 2022

(4 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister, Matt Rodda.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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Pensioners who have worked hard and paid in all their lives face an absolutely enormous increase in the cost of living. Food prices are up, the cost of heating is going up and the cost of living as a whole is going up. This huge increase in inflation was clear before the invasion of Ukraine and it is crystal clear now, yet so far the Government have only come up with a buy-now-pay-later scheme for heating bills, so I would like to ask the Minister: just when will the Government start listening to pensioners and when exactly will they show even a shred of understanding of the dreadful situation facing our pensioners at this time?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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The hon. Member will be aware that we raised state pension by 2.5% this year, when we did not need to do so, and it is going up by 3.1% in April, on top of which there is the support from the Chancellor with the £9 billion scheme set out only a few weeks ago. He will also be aware that huge efforts are being made to ensure there is take-up of the support benefits, which definitely assist. There is over £5 billion of them, but we want much more to be taken up.

Draft Occupational Pension Schemes (Collective Money Purchase Schemes) Regulations 2022

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 21st February 2022

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

General Committees
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Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I thank colleagues for their responses and their support for these regulations. This is very much an iterative process, so I accept the point about needing to review CDCs. I am often criticised on the one hand for not bringing this forward quickly enough and on the other for going too slowly. In this case, I think the Government are doing the perfect thing of trying to navigate a course that progresses the main form of CDCs. We will move to multi-employer CDCs in the latter part of this year, going into next year, and will move at a sufficient pace that we feel is appropriate. There will definitely be an opportunity to respond to these regulations and the draft code, which I strongly urge colleagues and the industry to read.

We are inventing a brand-new way of providing pensions that is genuinely of assistance to businesses, big employers and, crucially, employees—it is very much supported by unions, for example, and gives unions a real role in supporting businesses and employees—but it will also work for multi-employer schemes on an ongoing basis.

We used master trusts as a broad base of what we were trying to do, and while that has always been the case, there is no question whatever but that this is different from master trusts. I am happy to write to the hon. Member for Reading East with a bit more detail on that, but this is certainly not a like-for-like model in any way whatever.

The hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts rightly raised consumer protection, which is a challenge that I accept entirely. We have made great efforts to ensure proper communications. I have met repeatedly with Royal Mail and the CWU, for example, and there is no question in my mind but that Royal Mail employees, who are heavily unionised, are the most informed about this potential pension change of any employees up and down the country, because the engagement around Royal Mail post offices and postal centres around the country has been outstanding. I have been everywhere, from Norwich sorting office to Barrhead, all over the country, to meet with people, talk with them and see the work being done. However, I accept that this is an ongoing challenge.

Automatic enrolment, a wonderful Conservative/coalition Government invention that we very much continue to laud and applaud, is a transformation that has benefited 10.5 million people across all our constituencies. The hon. Lady rightly raised the 2017 review of automatic enrolment review; the Government will bring that in in the fullness of time. I also make the simple point that automatic enrolment is there to expand and enhance access to savings to so many people. Among young people and women, for example, less than 40% had an occupational pension; the figure is now well above 80%. That is a transformation since 2012, with a total of 10.5 million people benefiting.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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Perhaps the Minister would also like to thank the previous Labour Government for its work on auto-enrolment, as it was an idea developed by Gordon Brown originally and implemented, as he said, by later Governments.

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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There is no question but that this idea started with the Turner commission and the Brown-Blair Government—not a Government, I feel, that is very supported by the present Labour party—but we are very much behind this innovative change, and obviously we welcome all converts to innovative pension change. I totally accept that this is a 20-year policy. It has a stage to go, which we will be responsible for, but it is also, like so many things in pensions policy, something that transcends parties and Governments, because we make policy for 30 to 40 years, and this a good example of that.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 13th December 2021

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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With respect to my right hon. Friend, that matter has been decided in the courts on two occasions—in the High Court and in the Court of Appeal—and it is not proposed to change the policy.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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The Government have consistently failed to stand up for the interests of pensioners on modest incomes. Food prices are up, gas prices are up and electricity prices are up. The cost of living is going up. Yet despite this, the Government are refusing to cut VAT on fuel, even though they have had higher than expected VAT receipts from across the economy, which would allow them to do exactly that and offer much-needed help to pensioners. To make matters worse, the Government are also failing to increase the take-up of pension credit. When will they finally start offering real help to our pensioners?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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That is a bit rich. When the last Labour Government were in power, the state pension was under £100; it is now going up to £185 going forward. It is almost double what it was before thanks to the triple lock introduced by this Government and the coalition Government. It is also very much the case that pension credit take-up is actually going up, not down. Over the two years of the pandemic, both the basic and new state pension will have increased by more than prices thanks to the cumulative effects of the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Act 2020 and the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Act 2021.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 8th November 2021

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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We accept that there have been delays, and we have taken significant action in the form of the redeployment of 700 staff to address those. I am pleased that the cases of the two constituents that the hon. Member outlined have now been addressed. The particular problem has been in respect of the receipt of further information from particular applicants, and those matters are being addressed on an ongoing basis.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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People work hard all their lives and pay in to save for their retirement; they deserve to be paid their state pension on time. Colleagues across the House, as we have heard, are reporting more and more cases of delays in payment, some of which are as long as three months. This is a basic service provided by the Government, which we all rely on. How on earth did these delays come about? When will the Government take this seriously, and when will pensions finally be paid on time?

Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman)
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This is a short, two-clause Bill that sets out the way in which we will go from a triple lock to a double lock. I have set this matter out on Second Reading in great detail and I respectfully beg to move.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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I want to speak to the new clauses tabled in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) and the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden).

As we heard on Second Reading, there are a number of important areas that the Government seem to have overlooked. Those failures and omissions are part of a pattern of behaviour by the Prime Minister and his Government. They show a casual approach to their responsibilities. As a result of that behaviour, they are undermining trust in the Government. The Government’s approach could have a damaging effect on millions of pensioners and indeed on the public as a whole.

Before turning to the amendments, it is worth considering the fact that the Government have still not offered any reassurance on their commitment to the triple lock in the long term. It is still not clear whether Ministers are leaving the door open to scrapping this important policy. I ask the Minister and the Secretary of State to set out a meaningful commitment to the triple lock, justify the decision to remove the earnings link, and explain why the Government have not found a way to keep the link, such as by providing a link to earnings over a longer period of time. With three broken promises in just a few short weeks, the Government have little credibility left and they now need to rebuild trust in this important area of policy, and in their work as a whole.

On the new clauses, colleagues from across the House are right to raise concerns about pensioners, particularly those on lower incomes. Recent research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reiterates this. While there was a “dramatic reduction” in pensioner poverty between 1997 and 2012, the last few years have seen that progress “unravel”. House of Commons Library research shows that before housing costs, 19% of pensioners were living in poverty. After taking housing costs away, 18% were living in poverty. The problem is much worse for women than for men. Women make up—

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 13th September 2021

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have never spent as much as we do now on pensions. The triple lock has seen a £2,050-a-year increase in cash terms. The Government decided the changes 26 years ago, and that policy was continued by successive Governments, including during the 13 years of the Labour Government. In respect of all matters on an ongoing basis, we consider the PHSO, but clearly, it is a three-stage process and we are only at stage 1.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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People across this country work hard and contribute all their lives; they are right to expect the state pension to be there for them when they retire. Given that the Government have failed to pay the state pension on time and have broken three manifesto promises so far, Ministers can surely accept that pensioners and the public cannot simply take them at their word. Ahead of our consideration of the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill next Monday, will the Government publish their evidence for breaking the link with earnings in this way?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I am not sure that I am going to take any lessons from the hon. Gentleman. Before 2010, when the coalition came into power, the state pension was under £100. The new state pension is now £179. We have raised it by £2,000 in the last 10 years. We have enhanced the state pension massively through the triple lock. We did not even need to do anything last year, but we raised the state pension by 2.5%, and we will be increasing it by the double lock if the Bill passes next week.

Draft Occupational Pension Schemes (Administration, Investment, Charges and Governance) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Tuesday 7th September 2021

(11 months, 1 week ago)

General Committees
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Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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We are told that this instrument seeks to increase the requirements placed on trustees of occupational defined benefit schemes in order to require trustees of some schemes to disclose investment returns and demonstrate value for members. It also aims to increase flexibility by altering the rules on the charge cap and other technical changes.

As my colleagues in the other place set out yesterday, we understand that the proposed changes are designed to enable and encourage DC schemes to invest in a broader range of assets, including private equity and venture capital, the theory being that that will benefit the British economy and indeed the interest of pension scheme members. I am told, however, that the Government have been lobbied heavily by the private equity sector on this matter. Given the pressure on time, and the issues being discussed in the Chamber, I ask the Minister whether I may write to him to explore some of the more detailed issues within the regulations.

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I would be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman in full detail in response to any and every question that he wishes to raise.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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Thank you.

Draft Occupational Pension Schemes (Climate Change Governance and Reporting) Regulations 2021

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 5th July 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

General Committees
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Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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I would like to start by reflecting on the existential threat of climate change and the climate emergency. We are facing the most serious threat to humanity that we have ever seen. If allowed to carry on unchecked, the rate of temperature increase will dramatically change the world and will unleash a series of geological and environmental processes that will take us on an unsustainable trajectory to massive change to the climate.

So far, the Government’s response has been weak. The Prime Minister’s words have not been backed up by action on the scale that the emergency requires. The Government’s 10-point plan has failed to meet the scale of ambition needed. The Government are veering significantly off course to meet their legally binding 2050 net zero target. Quite simply, it is not good enough, yet it is all the more important in the year of COP26. The world is looking to the UK to show global leadership, but we must start at home if we are to do anything. We need credible action to increase the pace if we are to achieve the substantial majority of our emissions reductions by the end of this decade. That requires leadership, both at home and on the world stage.

A Labour Government will replace the Government’s piecemeal approach with a green new deal—a comprehensive plan for the transition to a low-carbon economy. Last week, after our questioning, it emerged that the Chancellor’s final report into the net zero review will be further delayed. The report was first due to be published in autumn 2020, and then in spring 2021. It has still not been published.

To show even further the scale of the slippage, last week the UK’s independent adviser on tackling climate change, the Climate Change Committee, which is headed by Lord Deben, a former Conservative Minister, revealed that the Treasury has not fully achieved a single one of the Committee’s 2020 recommendations. That is the context in which we are working.

I must move on to the scope for tackling climate change through pensions. It is worth noting—the Minister hinted at this—that it is a £1 trillion industry, with enormous potential to make real and lasting change and to protect us from the worst effects of climate change. Even on a tiny scale, a single pension has the ability—if invested properly—to take an amount of carbon out of the air equivalent to several cars being taken off the road. One individual person’s pension can make a difference. Imagine that scaled up across thousands or even millions of pensions. There is real potential to do some real good. The industry itself recognises that. The Path, a fund that advises on environmentally friendly investing, recently told the Financial Times that investing only a small amount in a more sustainable way could make a huge difference.

I want to reflect on the Pension Schemes Act and climate change, and putting those two parts together. When the Bill was introduced, instead of a net zero provision we saw no mention of net zero—a gaping hole that had to be dealt with on Second Reading. The Minister put a rather favourable gloss on that. The Government introduced amendments in Committee, which had to be strengthened through cross-party agreement and negotiation to ensure that trustees or managers had to take account of the Paris agreement and domestic targets such as net zero. Climate change was then mentioned for the first time in domestic pensions legislation. We should all be proud of that, but there is so much more to do.

I would like to stress that the Act could have gone a lot further. It could have been more ambitious but, sadly, the Government voted against the Labour amendment to allow regulators to mandate occupational schemes to develop an investment strategy aligned with net zero. Instead, we have this much less assertive statutory instrument in its place. Clearly, there remains a wide gap between the Government’s rhetoric and their actions on climate change, both in pensions and across a much wider field of policy.

Turning to the SI, I accept that it takes some steps forward. It sets out a duty on trustees and comes forward with a range of technical measures that are worthy in themselves. The SI has been consulted on and has wide-ranging support in the pensions industry and among stakeholders. However, many pensions firms and stakeholders want to go a lot further. To mention a few well-known names, Scottish Widows, Aviva, Nest, the BT pension scheme and some local government pension schemes have all signed up to Make My Money Matter, the green pensions charter that wishes to take things a lot further. It is clear that there is the will to do that among many players in the industry, who I have not been able to reference.

We have seen positive initiatives developed in other related sectors. I note, for example, that Mark Carney, the former Bank of England Governor, last week announced a taskforce on scaling voluntary carbon markets. I hope that colleagues will follow its progress and show the keen interest that it deserves.

Although the SI is worthy and necessary, I want to ask the Minister a series of questions that I hope he will respond to. First, does he really think that the Government are doing anywhere near enough to tackle climate change?

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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I hope he will address that question more formally later. Secondly, what more can we do together on a cross-party basis to help the pensions sector tackle this enormous problem? Thirdly, will he write to me to set out the Government’s next steps? It is all well and good dealing with the regulations coming from the Act, but there is much more to do.

To sum up, the country, and indeed the world, faces an enormous challenge. Government policy is failing to address that and, as their own former Minister said only last week in the Climate Change Committee, the Government are seriously off track. The official Opposition have challenged and pressed for more action, some of which has been forthcoming. Today’s SI is helpful, but we need to see much more.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 28th June 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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One of Britain’s best-known companies, P&O, has failed to pay £140 million that it owes to the merchant navy pension fund. This debt could cause serious problems for the fund, which has 24,000 members who work in a wide range of firms far beyond P&O. Despite P&O owing this enormous sum, the Government have awarded its parent company two lucrative freeport contracts. Will the Minister explain how on earth the Government allowed this to happen? We are getting used to sleaze and cronyism; is this an example of sleaze and cronyism, or is it sheer, unadulterated incompetence?

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Guy Opperman)
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The hon. Gentleman is a member of the Labour party. He will recall that it was the Labour party that set up the Pensions Regulator with operational independence to deal with these matters. He may have forgotten the basis on which the Pensions Regulator was set up, but I have not. It is a matter between the Pensions Regulator and the individual company, but I am sure that he will take that up when he meets the Pensions Regulator.

Compensation (London Capital & Finance plc and Fraud Compensation Fund) Bill (Second sitting)

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Tuesday 15th June 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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None Portrait The Chair
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Let us try to ensure that we get through this portion of business before the Division. The Opposition spokesperson may of course respond, but let us keep it brief.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I feel that he is being somewhat generous in his description of the Government’s assessment of this problem and the level of response. I urge him to redouble his efforts and to focus on some of these points in further detail.

I think that the hon. Member for Glenrothes is right to draw attention to the subtle legal difference on the issue of the impact assessment. Surely, given the scale of what is going on, it would be wise to carry out an impact assessment. I appreciate the pressure of time, but perhaps with the considerable resources of DWP, which has the largest staff quota of any Department and a very able group of civil servants, it would be possible to carry out an impact assessment on a rapid turnaround, given the scale of what we are talking about and, indeed, the problems of the sector as a whole.

On the ongoing consultation and the possibility of reviews in this area, will the Minister agree to meet me and the not-for-profit providers to explore the particular issues affecting them?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I will, of course, agree to meet them. I already meet NEST and the People’s Pension regularly, and they have made a very good pitch for a reduced levy. It is already a reduced levy, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, and there is already a 0.75% cap, but of course I am looking forward to meeting them as part of the ongoing consultation.[Official Report, Vol. 697. 17 June 2021, c. 3MC.]

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very grateful to the Minister and put on the record my thanks to him for offering that meeting. I look forward to seeing him and discussing the matter.

On amendment 5, the Minister mentioned the regulations in the Pension Schemes Act 2021, but will he write to me to discuss some of the ways in which the specific parts of the regulations relate to this issue? He has been reported in the media as suggesting that it might be wise to consider pension scams in the online harms Bill. Perhaps he will comment on that now or write to me separately, because we would like to work constructively with the Government on this matter. I appreciate that online harms are a huge and wide-ranging issue, and I have a constituency interest in violent crime in respect of a tragic incident in Reading.

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I would be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman. He can read in detail what I said in The Times on both occasions, and that is pretty much all I can say on that matter.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his candour and for offering me a cutting from The Times, which is a fine newspaper.

Finally, on the PPF annual report, the issue is that while these documents are very worthy, and we should all read them, there is a delay. I urge the Minister to consider the need to reassure organisations in the sector, pension savers and pensioners themselves in the near term, rather than our having to wait well into 2022 before the 2021 annual report is available.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Compensation (London Capital & Finance plc and Fraud Compensation Fund) Bill (Second sitting)

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Tuesday 15th June 2021

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Let us try to ensure that we get through this portion of business before the Division. The Opposition spokesperson may of course respond, but let us keep it brief.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I feel that he is being somewhat generous in his description of the Government’s assessment of this problem and the level of response. I urge him to redouble his efforts and to focus on some of these points in further detail.

I think that the hon. Member for Glenrothes is right to draw attention to the subtle legal difference on the issue of the impact assessment. Surely, given the scale of what is going on, it would be wise to carry out an impact assessment. I appreciate the pressure of time, but perhaps with the considerable resources of DWP, which has the largest staff quota of any Department and a very able group of civil servants, it would be possible to carry out an impact assessment on a rapid turnaround, given the scale of what we are talking about and, indeed, the problems of the sector as a whole.

On the ongoing consultation and the possibility of reviews in this area, will the Minister agree to meet me and the not-for-profit providers to explore the particular issues affecting them?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I will, of course, agree to meet them. I already meet NEST and the People’s Pension regularly, and they have made a very good pitch for a reduced levy. It is already a reduced levy, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, and there is already a 0.75% cap, but of course I am looking forward to meeting them as part of the ongoing consultation.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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I am very grateful to the Minister and put on the record my thanks to him for offering that meeting. I look forward to seeing him and discussing the matter.

On amendment 5, the Minister mentioned the regulations in the Pension Schemes Act 2021, but will he write to me to discuss some of the ways in which the specific parts of the regulations relate to this issue? He has been reported in the media as suggesting that it might be wise to consider pension scams in the online harms Bill. Perhaps he will comment on that now or write to me separately, because we would like to work constructively with the Government on this matter. I appreciate that online harms are a huge and wide-ranging issue, and I have a constituency interest in violent crime in respect of a tragic incident in Reading.

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I would be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman. He can read in detail what I said in The Times on both occasions, and that is pretty much all I can say on that matter.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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I thank the Minister for his candour and for offering me a cutting from The Times, which is a fine newspaper.

Finally, on the PPF annual report, the issue is that while these documents are very worthy, and we should all read them, there is a delay. I urge the Minister to consider the need to reassure organisations in the sector, pension savers and pensioners themselves in the near term, rather than our having to wait well into 2022 before the 2021 annual report is available.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Guy Opperman and Matt Rodda
Monday 17th May 2021

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Guy Opperman)
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We are the first G7 country to legislate for net zero and lead the world in sustainable environmental investment, with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and more, all of which address climate change. It was a pleasure to visit Airedale Springs, which is a great company that is doing good business but with due regard to climate change. That is our approach to UK pensions as we build back greener.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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Some 200,000 women who worked hard and paid their taxes all their lives have been underpaid their state pensions. It is an absolute scandal. I welcome the announcement that the DWP is trying to repay the money owed to these women, who have been so badly let down, but the repayments are being made far too slowly. Will the Minister confirm how many repayments were made last month and when the Department will finally speed up the process?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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It is good to see that the hon. Gentleman survived the deputy leadership reshuffle.

The simple point is that the DWP formally commenced correction activity on 11 January this year, and I published a written ministerial statement on 4 February this year. We are clearing up a mess, the responsibility for much of which goes back to the changes made under the Labour Government in 2008, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware. Where underpayments are identified, the Department will contact the individual to inform them of the changes to their state pension amount and of any arrears payments that they will receive in accordance with the law.