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Mr. Purchase: My hon. Friend used the words "now and in the future". Does he agree that the future has never been accurately defined? The whole of financial history shows that it is almost impossible to predict the future over any great length of time. Does my hon. Friend accept that the new clause, which he presents to us as a way of offering greater protection to employees, still provides the opportunity for money to be taken out of the fund, whereas if it were left in, it would provide greater certainty against an uncertain future?

Malcolm Wicks: I understand where my hon. Friend is coming from and I take his warning that none of us can predict the future in that sense, but surely the sensible approach and the obligation is to ensure that pension schemes have sufficient money for the purpose. We are saying—this is quite a high requirement—that there should be sufficient money for full buy-out, should that prove necessary. For us to say that it is an obligation on schemes, and therefore on employers, to have funds way above that level would put an onus on employers that may put some off from continuing their final salary pension schemes. That is a real danger.

We do not want to so over-egg the pension pudding that it could lead to the demise of decent occupational pension schemes. That is our concern. I say that at a time when many Opposition Members accuse us of putting new burdens on employers. We are happy to defend that. The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) is nodding because the Opposition declined to give the Bill a Second Reading. They declined to allow us to introduce a Bill providing for the pension protection fund. That is where they are coming from.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East is coming from a more respectable position. I am arguing that we need to get the balance right between the costs on schemes and therefore on employers, and proper protection for future pensioners.

Mr. Tynan rose—

Mr. Webb rose—

Malcolm Wicks: I shall give way first to my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan) and then to my honourable opponent, the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb).
18 May 2004 : Column 880

Mr. Tynan: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he accept that previously, when pension schemes had a surplus, there was considerable regulation on those schemes and on the employer to prevent surpluses being taken out, which would endanger the scheme? It was only because of the level of the stock market at that time that a surplus accrued to schemes. Once the surplus had been taken from the scheme and the stock market fell, there was no surplus and the scheme was in real difficulty. We could be in the same position in the future. In the circumstances, I caution my hon. Friend to look seriously—I understand that it is consultation—at what is being proposed. I still believe that a viable pension scheme could become unviable a year down the line, if the surplus had been taken from the scheme.

Malcolm Wicks: That is a perfectly reasonable argument, but I hope my hon. Friend will take on board what I am saying. We are not proposing that in a light touch way, willy-nilly, surpluses can be given back to employers. We are stipulating a tough requirement and that the actuary must be satisfied. If he is not satisfied, the regulator can move in. Full buy-out is a very high requirement.

Some decent employers are perfectly properly putting significant amounts of shareholders' money into pension schemes to improve their finances. I do not think it is so unreasonable—I am repeating myself—that if they are in surplus, subject to the safeguards that I presented, that should be allowed.

We have had a useful debate and perhaps we should shortly wind it up. There was an interesting exchange about language and the phrase "trustees are be satisfied". We thought for a moment that the hon. Member for Northavon used to be the professor of English literature at Bath university. Someone, but I had better not say who it was in case he is accused of regionalism, thought that that was how people spoke in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I was outraged by the very suggestion. The phrase is not an example of English usage in that part of the country, but rather more mundanely, an error. I wonder, Madam Deputy Speaker, whether it may be treated as an evident printing error, rather than something that requires amendment. I hope that might be possible.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I should say that the Chair is prepared to treat the superfluous word "be" in section 37(3)(d) of the inserted text as an obvious printing error, which will be corrected.

Malcolm Wicks: I am very grateful. That will save all of us time.

I ask the House to support the new clause. I was touched by the reminder of Woody Guthrie. As I recall, he was responsible for that great patriotic song—patriotic in the proper sense—"This Land is Your Land". The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that pensions belong to people—"this pension is our pension". It is very much what we are about. On that lyrical note, I hope that the House are be satisfied with the amendments.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 317, Noes 48.
18 May 2004 : Column 881

Division No. 180
[3:29 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Byers, rh Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corston, rh Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Cranston, Ross
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Drew, David (Stroud)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Heppell, John
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, rh Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Merron, Gillian
Milburn, rh Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Morris, rh Estelle
Mountford, Kali
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Derek Twigg and
Charlotte Atkins


Allan, Richard
Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beith, rh A. J.
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Fife)
Carmichael, Alistair
Chidgey, David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Doughty, Sue
Ewing, Annabelle
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harvey, Nick
Hermon, Lady
Holmes, Paul
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Moore, Michael
Öpik, Lembit
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Pugh, Dr. John
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Shepherd, Richard
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Trimble, rh David
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Willis, Phil
Wishart, Pete
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Andrew Stunell and
Mr. Alan Reid

Question accordingly agreed to.

18 May 2004 : Column 883

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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