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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I have to say that I have not, in my own mind, gone into such mechanistic versions of what the phrase might mean. However, I think it means that the information was not sufficiently full to allow someone to make an informed decision. It is too late at night for me to think of an obvious example but, let us say, if someone received information which said, "Yes, you will be getting half a widow's pension", but did not give any indication as to when that might take effect, thus causing the person to believe that it would be 25 rather than 14 years on, that might be the sort of circumstance envisaged here. In other words, what was said was not untruthful but, by its lack of completeness, it did not give a full picture on the basis of which people could make a reasonable decision. If I have unintentionally misled the noble Lord, I will of course give him some further examples. But that is the sort of thing that I believe is meant by the phrase rather than situations involving typewriters and phones.

Lord Rix: I have one other example for the Minister. If someone looked through the leaflet that is issued every year with the pension statement and, up to 1996, that presented no alternative--no change--to SERPS, could that not be construed as "incomplete information"?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: If, for example, someone received a leaflet in 1996 which clearly led him to believe that, as a result, he would continue to

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enjoy 100 per cent SERPS pension, that would be inaccurate, incomplete or misleading--however you may wish to describe it.

Lord Higgins: In the light of the Minister's response, I am absolutely clear in one respect; namely, that to deal with this matter by regulations would not be a satisfactory arrangement because regulations are not amendable. Indeed, this place may well take a different view from the view which the Government eventually feel they want to take. Given the scale of the problem and the public interest in it, it would not be right to say that the matter will be dealt with by regulation, where it is a take-it-or-leave-it situation.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: As draft regulations, so to speak, they would be going before the Social Security Advisory Committee, the Public Administration Select Committee and the ombudsman. If points were made by those three separate bodies that ought to be borne in mind, the regulations would be modified before they came to this as well as the other place.

Lord Higgins: It does not necessarily follow that the Government will accept all the recommendations that those bodies make--

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: They may disagree.

Lord Higgins: Indeed, they may disagree. In my view, it is for this Chamber and the other place to decide the appropriate way to handle the matter.

I turn to my other point. My amendment--I believe that it helps those who have already retired as well as others--seeks to move the burden of proof on to the Government. I thought that that was accepted by the Government. However, that burden of proof does not constitute simply a case of being rung up on the wrong day or being sent the incorrect letter, or whatever it may be. The starting point--this is my understanding of the ombudsman's position--is that men were told that their wives would receive a full widow's pension. Unless they were subsequently told that that was not the position, they were misled. There was another category of people who were, so to speak, specifically misled. To say that it is a case of ignorance of the law when people are told one thing, the law changes and they assume that the original situation still exists, is to stretch the point too far.

However, no doubt we shall read carefully what the Minister has said and return to this matter at successive stages of the Bill. However, it is a matter on which Members will need to exercise a degree of discretion. I hope that rather than deal with the matter in regulations the Government will include it on the face of the Bill. We can then consider whether to accept it in that form.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: What does the noble Lord mean by putting it on the face of the Bill? We are still in the process of consultation. Is the noble Lord saying that we should not continue to consult but

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should include the measure on the face of the Bill even though we do not expect to see the introduction of the scheme for two-and-a-half years and even though the consultation is extensive and detailed and, as a result, we shall need to put proposals to the other bodies involved? I do not understand where the noble Lord is coming from. Is he saying that there should be a separate Bill or is he saying that the measure should be included in this Bill?--because, if so, it is a case of saying goodbye to consultation now.

Lord Higgins: This matter has been going on for a long while. Last year we had another Bill. I believe that the views of the House were clear. We were told that the measure would be dealt with in this Bill, which it is. However, the crucial point is that at the end of the day the House should be able to amend measures. It is not acceptable that the matter should be dealt with by regulations. It needs to be dealt with by primary legislation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 136 to 139 not moved.]

Clause 38 agreed to.

Clause 39 [Home responsibilities protection]:

[Amendment No. 140 not moved.]

Clause 39 agreed to.

Clauses 40 and 41 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 141 and 142 not moved.]

Lord Astor of Hever moved Amendment No. 142A:

    After Clause 41, insert the following new clause--


(" . A person shall be able to hold both a stakeholder pension and an occupational pension concurrently and without financial penalty.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment would introduce concurrent scheme membership of stakeholder pension schemes and also all forms of occupational and individual pension schemes. The Government have already announced that they will permit individuals to contribute both to a stakeholder pension scheme and to a money purchase occupational scheme which opts to be covered by the new unified defined contributions regime. An individual will be able to contribute up to £3,600 in total to such schemes irrespective of level of earnings. Over earnings of £3,600, existing limits will apply.

However, many experts in the pensions industry argue that concurrency is vital. Indeed, it is widely considered to be the most important pensions issue at present. If concurrency were to be accepted, it would transform the whole pensions world for the better. These experts believe that members of all occupational pensions schemes should be able at the same time to contribute to a stakeholder pension or to a personal pension, as this would have a number of important benefits for pension provision in the United Kingdom. It would simplify the increasingly complex framework of pension provision, which works against the best interests of people joining pensions schemes. We are convinced that further simplification of the pension

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regime is vital, as many people have a limited understanding of pensions and may make inadequate provision.

The introduction of concurrent scheme membership would have the important benefit of enabling individuals to use their stakeholder pension as an additional voluntary contribution vehicle if they belong to an occupational pension scheme. It would increase the likely take-up of stakeholder pensions, so the cost of provision may be reduced. Concurrency would also avoid the possibility of another pension mis-selling or mis-buying scandal. There would be less risk that individuals would remain in a stakeholder pension rather than choose simply to join their employer's occupational pension scheme.

If the Government are serious about supporting occupational pension schemes, this is an important and tangible way of demonstrating their seriousness. The Government have hinted that they wish to address the issue. If so, could the Minister be more specific tonight, because companies will have to plan ahead? I urge the Government to reconsider concurrency, so that as many people as possible take up as much of their pension entitlement as they can. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: It is obviously much easier to combine a stakeholder pension with a money purchase scheme--whether it is an occupational or personal pension. The fact that there may be difficulty, in respect of the rules, in combining a stakeholder pension with a final salary occupational scheme is no reason for not changing the rules to make that possible.

Stakeholder pensions are of considerable benefit to many employees. It would be of great advantage if employees would not be required to give up their stakeholder pension simply because they move to a company with an occupational scheme. Equally, it would be highly undesirable if they came under pressure to opt out of an employer's occupational scheme to preserve their stakeholder pension. Concurrency is of considerable importance.

I agree with everything that the noble Lord said about the desirability of encouraging people to maximise their pensions within the permissible limits.

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