Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 3, line 32, at end insert ("provided that the pensions of those in civilian life are fully safeguarded").

The noble Baroness said: I beg leave to move Amendment No. 7 standing in the names of my noble friends, Lord Williams of Elvel, Lord Judd and myself. This is a very simple amendment intended to protect the position of those who become members of the reserve forces but will return after service to civilian life. It is surely necessary that such individuals, who voluntarily give their services in defence of their country, should not be disadvantaged in later years. Many such people will be members in civilian life of occupational pension schemes. The ultimate entitlement will depend upon the contributions made by the employer and the employee during the latter's working life.

For a number of reasons, public attention has been very much concentrated on pension provision. Lately, there have, as we know, been some scandals resulting in apparent loss of entitlement. Those who volunteer for service within the terms of the Bill should be able to rely on their occupational pension cover, if they have it, not to be worsened as a result of that service. It may well be that the Minister will say this is already taken care of in this particular clause but I do not think it does so effectively.

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH54

This amendment seeks to ensure that an individual's rights are fully safeguarded, and that would mean ensuring that during his or her absence on service the contributions due to the occupational scheme are fully paid. Unless this is done the continuity is breached and the individual will receive far less pension than he or she would have done had there been no service. I hope therefore that the Minister will agree to accept this amendment.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: I wish to give my support to this amendment because I believe that the success of this Bill rests on how it is perceived by those who were going to sign up. If they believe they will be financially worse off, or there is a doubt about their pensions, they obviously will not sign up and that would make the Bill unworkable.

Earl Attlee: I also would like briefly to support this amendment. I have an interest to declare because I am also a serving officer in the Territorial Army and I serve in the same battalion as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. It will be of great concern to people who are called up that their pension contributions are continued, particularly if they do not survive and a widow is left unsupported. She could end up with less provision than she would have received under her occupational pension. I should be interested to hear what the noble Earl has to say on the matter.

Earl Howe: I entirely understand the concerns that have been expressed by the noble Baroness, and indeed by both the noble Lords who have spoken. Let me say that there is an express power in Clause 82 of the Bill to make regulations providing for payments to be made in relation to any description of financial loss, and towards the provision of pensions, allowances or gratuities. Those regulations are subject to the negative resolution procedure and there must be consultation of representatives of interested parties before the regulations are made. We have not begun to settle the scheme details. Indeed, we have not begun to consult on them. It is early days yet to be discussing this question because there is a limited amount I can say beyond pointing to the part of the Bill which specifically provides for such payments. It might be more appropriate to discuss the question further, on safeguarding civilian pensions of reservists, once we come to consider Part VIII of the Bill, and in particular Clause 82. I would obviously be happy to do so, but for the time being I hope I have said enough to persuade the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Williams of Elvel: The noble Earl will, I am sure, recognise that the matters in this Bill have been under consideration for a very long time. It comes rather hard to those of us who have received this Bill in whatever form it now is to find the noble Earl yet again saying that it is early days and these things have not been considered. Could the noble Earl give us an assurance that at least by the time this Bill goes to another place the questions raised by my noble friend Lady Turner will be answered by the Government?

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH55

Earl Howe: The point to be made is that we can hardly begin to draw up regulations when the Bill itself has not even been considered by Parliament. It would be inappropriate and wrong to do so. That is the point.

Lord Williams of Elvel: But at least the Government must have some idea of what they are playing at.

Earl Howe: That is why we have included Clause 82 in the Bill as a general provision for the type of payment that the noble Baroness is concerned about, and I readily acknowledge her concerns. I shall gladly revert to this matter, as I have indicated, at a later stage but I come back to the fact that it would be quite wrong for us to consult publicly on a matter which Parliament has not ratified.

Lord Williams of Elvel: Again, I come back to the noble Earl. This happens the whole time. The Government consult on matters which Parliament has not ratified almost every day. I have done so many Bills in this House where we have had chairmen of nationalised industries appointed before your Lordships have had a chance to read a Bill. What I say to the noble Earl is that unless there is some response to the principle I can assure him that even if there is no response in your Lordships' House, in another place there will be a lot of bother about this.

Earl Bathurst: Do I understand that the noble Earl is not accepting the amendment of the noble Baroness? Supposing the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, was called up, possibly to go to Bosnia or anywhere in the world, and was injured and incapacitated to such an extent that he was unable to carry on a civilian job, for which he had made pension contributions. Does that mean he would not qualify for the pension to which he had been paying considerable contributions? If so, this must be unfair.

Lord Mottistone: My noble friend, the Minister, has said that this subject is taken care of by Clause 82 of the Bill and that he is only too happy to discuss the matter when the Motion that Clause 82 stands part comes before the Committee. There is an amendment to Clause 82 and therefore it seems to me that that would be the point at which this matter should be discussed and that there is no need to tackle it in this part of the Bill. I do not see why we should not follow what my noble friend was suggesting--after all, he is the Minister in charge of the Bill and it will get us through this business more quickly if we follow what the Minister is saying rather than trying to press the point now which would be better discussed elsewhere in the Bill.

It could well be that we will find at the Report stage that the noble Lords opposite, if they have not been satisfied today, will come forward with another amendment casting their eyes at Clause 82 rather than at this part of the Bill. That would seem to be sensible, and we could then get on with the Bill more quickly.

Baroness Turner of Camden: From what has been said on all sides of the Committee in regard to this amendment, it seems to me that there is a general acceptance that something should be done. Even the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, clearly thinks that.

25 Jan 1996 : Column CWH56

Looking at Clause 82, that seems to me simply to be what one might call the regulation making power, setting out that the regulations shall say this, that and the other.

My point in tabling the amendment as regards this particular clause of the Bill was to try to state up-front on the face of the Bill what the principle would be. The principle would essentially be that people would not be worse off from a pension point of view because they had served in the reserve forces. That is why I tabled it at that point in the Bill--I wanted to make the principle quite clear. It may very well be that, later on, when we come to the regulations under Clause 82, we may want to strengthen that or do something else. But inserting it at this point says quite clearly on the face of the Bill that this is the intention and this is the principle.

I shall not press the matter this afternoon, but clearly we shall have to think about it and come back at Report stage if we feel that we really do need to have the principle stated early in the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Enlistment of men in the reserve forces]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 4, leave out lines 10 and 11.

The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move Amendment No. 8 standing in the names of my noble friend, Lord Williams of Elvel, my noble friend, Lady Turner, and myself.

In our view, to enlist is a serious matter. A man or woman is making a commitment to serve Queen and country, to put his or her life at risk in the cause of the nation. It seems to us that the point of enlistment is a very serious moment in the individual's life and in service life. From that standpoint we are a little perturbed by the provision in this clause; namely, that it is envisaged that,

    "any other person authorised for the purpose of enlisting recruits by or in accordance with orders or regulations under section 4"

should be able to undertake this onerous responsibility. It seems to us to demean the occasion and the significance of it. We should therefore like to suggest that the dignity of the service, and the respect for the individuals who make up the service, would be better preserved if this paragraph were deleted. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page