Previous Section Index Home Page

In the event, that argument was won; the Government staged a more or less graceful climbdown. Huge thanks must go to my colleagues Lord Skelmersdale and Baroness Noakes in the Lords. The Government tabled a series of detailed amendments for discussion and debate, including
25 Nov 2008 : Column 689
more sensible defences, a new alternative test for the use of the contribution notice power, a list of factors to guide the regulator and a code of practice. The proof of that particular pudding will be very much in the eating, but we have now reached a more sensible solution to a problem that was perhaps being overstated. Now we may have the powers just about right; I hope that they will be used with considerable discretion, care and caution.

I am not saying that the pensions regulator is like the police, who always want more powers, but we need to be careful about simply giving more and more powers to the regulator if that is likely to upset the delicate balance in situations where a rescue could be staged, and if it is likely to tip companies that could have been rescued, along with their pension schemes, into the arms of the PPF. Now we have the “reasonably foreseeable” test and other details that are broadly satisfactory. In its brief for this debate, the CBI said that it

That is absolutely right; indeed, the business models may well change further over time and it is important that we keep monitoring them as they do.

Let me refer briefly to amendment No. 256. The lump sum from the PPF for progressive illness when death is likely within six months is an important provision. Amendment No. 194 and others concern the financial assistance scheme. I will not dwell on the long and painful process of getting the Government to face up to their responsibilities following the ombudsman’s report, but we welcome the extension of the FAS to schemes that were previously excluded.

8 pm

Another point about the FAS as regards payments for those with illnesses concerns the test being applied to people expected to die within five years. The ubiquitous Dr. Ros Altmann points out:

and therefore be excluded from assistance. She argues for more discretion. I hope that the Government will have another look at that in the light of the representations made by Dr. Altmann and no doubt others.

These will be my valedictory few sentences on this Bill. On amendment No. 197, I pay tribute to Lord Fowler,
25 Nov 2008 : Column 690
who spoke very clearly on the issue of annuitisation. Our position is well known. We do not see why we should be the only country on the face of the planet that has compulsory annuitisation. This week at the ABI conference, I was heartened that Otto Thoreson made supportive remarks about scrapping compulsory annuitisation. We recently urged the Government at least to loosen the rules temporarily during the turmoil in the markets, but they were unwilling to do so. In the long term, this must be addressed, and if this Government will not do so, then we will.

Paul Rowen: I, too, thank the officials at the DWP, who have supplied us with a lot of helpful information.

I should like to concentrate on three aspects of the amendments. We welcome amendments Nos. 194, 195, 196, 197 and 217, which bring schemes that fall outside the financial assistance scheme and the pension compensation scheme into the FAS. There are probably only a small number of people who were employees where an employer was experiencing insolvency after 6 April 2005 but delayed winding up. We are glad that that provision has been inserted into the Bill.

We welcome the amendment that allows payments to people who are terminally ill—that is very sensible. We welcome the series of amendments that deal with divorce where one party is a member of more than one scheme, which mean that the courts will be able to make share orders relating to each individual scheme. Those are sensible provisions. As the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) said, no doubt Ros Altmann will continue to have a lot more to say about this.

Like the hon. Gentleman, we are disappointed with the Government’s stance on annuitisation. That will be a debate for another day, because the issue is not going to go away.

Ms Rosie Winterton: I would like to take this opportunity to thank parliamentary counsel for all the work that they have done on the Bill. I understand that the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) once feared “death by seminar”. I hope that he has not felt that tonight’s debate was “death by amendment”. However, the number of amendments before us, although large, reflected the approach of consensual policy reform. I hope that we will continue in that vein and achieve that consensus in order to effect positive change to transform the British savings system for the future.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 179 to 289 agreed to [some with Special Entry].

25 Nov 2008 : Column 691

Standing Orders (Select Committees)

[Relevant document: The Fifth Special Report of the Liaison Committee, HC 1110, on Modernisation of Language in Standing Orders relating to Select Committees .]

8.5 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Bryant): I beg to move,

I rise to speak to the motion standing in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House relating to Standing Orders on Select Committees. I do not intend to delay the House for longer than I strictly need to. I always hesitate to say that things are not controversial, because they then often suddenly turn out to be controversial after all. However, these changes to Standing Orders are not controversial. They merely change the wording in various of our Standing Orders so as to catch up with the practice of the House that is already in operation. They have come from the Liaison Committee. I think that there is full agreement across the House that we should be making them, not least because the way in which we publish Votes and
25 Nov 2008 : Column 692
Proceedings will change when the new Session begins. It is therefore important that these changes go through swiftly.

8.6 pm

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): Likewise, I will not detain the House for very long. I am tempted to say to the Deputy Leader of the House that he can breathe a sigh of relief, because the usual suspects are not in the Chamber. [ Interruption . ] “Not yet,” says the Government Deputy Chief Whip.

It obviously makes sense to ensure that the language in which our Standing Orders are written is understandable to those outside who may wish to look at them. It is important to make everything that we do here in Parliament more accessible to people, and this is part of that. As the hon. Gentleman says, these proposals have come from the Liaison Committee. I do not intend to detain him by saying that it is a great pity we are not making further amendments to the Standing Orders governing the European Scrutiny Committee; that would be to reopen a debate that we have already had. I welcome the proposals.

Question put and agreed to.

Committees Meeting Concurrently


Welsh Grand Committee


25 Nov 2008 : Column 693

Mr. John Haase and Mr. Paul Bennett

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Barbara Keeley.]

8.7 pm

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): It is a pleasure, Madam Deputy Speaker, to be in the Chamber under your strict invigilation. I know that you will make sure that we stick to the subject in this aptly timed debate, as it has turned out. It is a rather arcane subject for most people, but it is certainly on the record, because I bob up every few years to have a debate on it.

I am extremely pleased that the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle)—my neighbour and a fellow Liverpool MP—is to answer on behalf of the Government. She not only knows about the kind of environment to which I will refer, but has been a practising lawyer in the city of Liverpool and is therefore well versed in some of the nuances of the characters who play a role in this saga.

Back in 1996, when the then Home Secretary set free two vicious career criminals just 11 months after they were sentenced to 18 years in prison for drugs offences, considerable concern was expressed—not just in the city of Liverpool, I hasten to add, but in this place. Indeed, I remember one hon. Member, now Lord Carlile, demanding a statement from the then Home Secretary. I mention Lord Carlile in particular because some years later, as a barrister, he defended one of the two principals in this case, John Haase. As I say, Lord Carlile was not the only person to express concern, and neither was I; there were many others, including many hon. Members, journalists and people in the city of Liverpool who knew that something was radically wrong if two such vicious individuals could be allowed the sort of remission that they had obviously been given.

Let us note that their release, when it came, was at the fag end of the parliamentary Session, as Members went off on summer recess, going away on holiday or whatever. When I discovered that John Haase and Paul Bennett had been released, I was at home in Liverpool. In fact, I was about to leave my home to go on Sky TV to excoriate the Government of the day for releasing these people when I received a telephone call from the then Home Secretary in which he advised me not to do the interview. He told me that if I did so, the two people in question—the two informants, as they came to be known—would have their lives put at risk. That may seem an irrelevant argument from 12 years ago, but it came to have a strong bearing on what happened just a few weeks ago.

Obviously, I took the then Home Secretary at his word. Although I was on the Opposition Front Bench at the time, I deferred to the privileged information that the Home Secretary of the day had. As a precautionary measure, I rang up the shadow Home Secretary, who at that time was of course my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). I told him what had transpired because I thought it remarkable; I just wanted to put it on the record. As the summer wore on, and I heard more reports, I became more and more concerned about the release, to put it mildly. If the lives of the two individuals—Haase and Bennett—were at risk, they were oblivious to it. They were back on the
25 Nov 2008 : Column 694
streets practising their criminal arts, and they were involved in a whole range of criminal activities. Eventually, in 2001, Haase went back into prison on gun, money laundering and drugs charges. His partner in crime and nephew, Paul Bennett, went on the run, and it was not until relatively recently that we were able to locate him and get him back.

A campaign started at that time that brought us to today’s debate, 12 years later. The reason why is simple: on 19 November, John Haase received 22 years, and Paul Bennett 20 years, for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice—the very charge that I first brought to the attention of this House on 7 March 2001, and which I repeated in a debate on 21 May 2004. It was blindingly obvious to me what had happened, but it seemed as though various agencies of the state did not recognise what was obvious. I have to exempt some individuals from that. Some people in various agencies were equally concerned, but the agencies themselves seemed almost powerless to do anything about the situation.

The truth was that the agencies did not want to do anything about the situation because it was a tremendous embarrassment to them. Not only was it an embarrassment to them, but what had happened in the course of the conspiracy meant that everyone was a winner. The police were winners because they took huge numbers guns off the streets of Liverpool. The customs were winners because they were lifting up to 50 kg of heroin at a time, and they were disrupting the supply rings feeding the heroin trade in the UK. They were winners. It turns out that the Prison Service seemed to be a winner, because it discovered a gun in Strangeways prison thanks to information conveyed by Haase. Everybody seemed to be a winner. Of course, that was not true: the criminal justice system was a tremendous loser because of what was going on.

I brought the matter to the attention of not only the House, but various Ministers. I brought it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn when he was Home Secretary and nothing happened. I took it to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) when he was Home Secretary, and nothing happened. It would be remiss of me not to give credit to my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) and his then junior Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins), because when I took it to them, I am happy to say that some action did follow. That action gave me an opportunity, but it would not have happened except for their intervention.

I felt that many hours and years of personal effort were being wasted as I spoke to Minister after Minister. I tabled questions, had debates, parlayed with journalists and tabled early-day motions—all apparently to no avail. But it was not to no avail, in fact. I was building up a body of evidence, ably assisted by an investigative journalist supreme, Graham Johnson, and I built up a case that was irrefutable, as we found when we got the police involved.

Next Section Index Home Page