Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    9. Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): What the total value of national insurance rebates paid into contracted-out pension funds was in the most recent year for which figures are available. [209979]

    The Minister for Pensions (Malcolm Wicks): ?10.5 billion.

    Mr. Lilley: Given that the national savings ratio has halved under this Government, is it not sad that the sum that the Minister mentioned, which is still very large, has declined from its peak? Does he recognise that national insurance rebates still make a major contribution to the nation‘s savings and are a vital element of individuals‘ savings for retirement? Will he resist the temptation to steal that money to improve benefits for current pensioners at the expense of future pensioners? Stealing that money would turn savings into spending; instead, he should encourage more people to save.

    Malcolm Wicks: The question was addressed to the Government Front Bench, but I am not sure what official Conservative party policy is on that matter?it might be to use the money in some other way. National insurance rebates are an important way in which private and occupational pension schemes are funded. As the former Secretary of State knows only too well, legislation requires that rebate rates be reviewed at least once every five years. Later this year, we will start the review process with the Government Actuary‘s Department to set the new rebate levels from 2007.