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Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and Commissioner for Local Administration in Scotland Bill

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Lord Mackay of Drumadoon.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 18th March):

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

The Bill will increase and clarify the powers of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman and will strengthen the powers of the Commissioner for Local Administration. The additional powers will bring the Scottish ombudsman broadly in line with counterparts in England and Wales. It is appropriate that I deal briefly with two points which were raised at Second Reading, about which I wrote separately to the noble Lords involved.

First of all, there was a concern about the ombudsman's powers to require the production of relevant documents and information. I have now considered this matter further and I am satisfied that the ombudsman's powers are appropriate. It is very much in the public interest that the ombudsman should have access to all relevant information and documents even if these would otherwise be confidential. I should, however, stress that the ombudsman can only require information or documents of relevance to his investigation of how a professional organisation such as the Law Society of Scotland or the Faculty of Advocates has handled a complaint.

The second point raised at Second Reading concerned what would happen if professional organisations refused to provide the ombudsman with documents and information. These organisations are already under a statutory duty to comply with the ombudsman's requirements and there have been no difficulties over compliance in the past, nor any suggestion that there would be in the future. I am satisfied that the strengthened powers, such as those proposed for the Scottish Legal Aid Board in the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Bill, are neither necessary nor appropriate. I commend the Bill to the House.

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Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.--(Lord Mackay of Drumadoon.)

On Question, Bill read a third time.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord Mackay of Drumadoon.)

On Question, Bill passed.

Flood Prevention and Land Drainage (Scotland) Bill

8.37 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 18th March), Bill read a third time.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

I am pleased to say that this uncontroversial but important piece of legislation has moved quickly to this final stage before Royal Assent. I am grateful to noble Lords for their co-operation in allowing such speedy progress.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Bill passed.

Welsh Development Agency Bill

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Lord Lucas.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 18th March), Bill read a third time, and passed.

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Prisons (Alcohol Testing) Bill

Baroness Berners: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Baroness Berners.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 18th March), Bill read a third time, and passed.

Sexual Offences (Protected Material) Bill

Read a third time.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. I should like to thank all noble Lords who participated in the Bill, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for his interest and support.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Baroness Byford.)

On Question, Bill passed.

Pensions Measure

8.41 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Bristol rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

If in the 1950s you were to ask any clergy wife what she most feared, she would have answered, the death of her husband while in service. Living in a tied house with limited pension provision, her fears were very real. In 1954 the Church Commissioners undertook the whole cost of clergy pensions on a pay-as-you-go basis. There was no lump sum on retirement. A pension consisted of approximately half the average clergy stipend. With the introduction of compulsory retirement of clergy at the age of 70 in 1976, the issue of retirement benefits came into sharper focus. Today a full service clergy pension stands at £8,533 per annum; the lump sum payment is £25,600 towards the cost of retirement housing. That is thought by many to be adequate but not princely.

There are now nearly as many pensioners as clergy in active ministry and so the calls on the Church Commissioners' income to pay pensions on a pay-as-you-go basis are increasing year by year. In 1955 pensions accounted for 7 per cent. of the commissioners' income. In 1990 it was 35 per cent. In the year 2010 it could absorb 90 per cent. of the commissioners' income. There are no doubt those in

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your Lordships' House who will make a connection between this situation and the poor performance of the commissioners' property investments in the late 1980s. It certainly exacerbated the problem, but the roots lie in the policy of pay-as-you-go which had the potential to present problems when clergy were forced to retire from stipendiary ministry at the age of 70.

If something is not done now, then the historic trusts of the commissioners will not be able to support the ministry of the clergy in needy parishes and dioceses as well as their statutory obligations to bishops and cathedrals from whom much of the present assets of the commissioners derive. The primary role of the Church Commissioners is to support and maintain a nationwide parochial ministry, a role which the Church of England is anxious to continue.

It is against this background that I present the Pensions Measure to your Lordships' House. This Measure, after long consultation with diocesan boards of finance, dioceses, the General Synod, and consultation with parliamentarians in the wake of the reports of the Social Security Committee on financing clergy pensions, was passed by the General Synod in November last year with only three votes cast against it. That is as near unanimous a vote as one is likely to get, given the nature of the Church of England. The Ecclesiastical Committee unanimously declared the Measure to be expedient.

The essence of the Measure is to be found in Clause 1. It is proposed to reconstitute the pensions board which will be responsible for the payment, out of the Church of England's pension fund, of pensions to clergy, their dependants and others. The clergy will receive their pensions from two schemes, both administered by the pensions board: one called the Church of England Pensions Scheme, which relates to past service to which the Church Commissioners will from time to time transfer sums made up of capital and income on a pay-as-you-go basis; and the other called the Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme which relates to present and future service and will in the main be funded by contributions from dioceses. There are two schemes, one fund, one cheque.

In Clauses 3 and 4 the Measure describes the funded scheme. This is a new scheme for future service pensions under a separate trust to be operated under rules similar to those of a normal occupational pension scheme but varied to take account of the fact that the employer-employee relationship is absent because most clergy are office holders not employees. Contributions to that scheme will be made by dioceses from money raised in the parishes and by other organisations which employ clergy. Noble Lords will no doubt be aware of the concerns expressed as to whether or not dioceses would be able to raise what in effect would be a 16 per cent. increase in income. After some hesitation, dioceses were convinced that with the transitional help, about which I shall say more later, they will be able to meet this target. All dioceses have already signalled their ability to do so.

In Clauses 5 to 7 the Measure sets out the role of the Church Commissioners. The commissioners, in continuing to meet the cost of past service pensions, will

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also be empowered to use both capital and income for transitional payments; that is, to assist dioceses and perhaps others--for example, missionary societies--to make their contributions on behalf of their members to the pensions fund for present and future liabilities. The period envisaged in the Measure is for up to seven years. This will be a significant sum, in the region, it is estimated, of some £60 million. And there is every sign that the transitional period is likely to be between five and six years and not the whole seven.

By allowing the commissioners to pay for past service on a need-to-pay basis, using both capital and income, the commissioners will be able to invest their monies so that the best return can be made and the most efficient use made of resources under their control. Before the seven years elapse, during which time the commissioners would have the authority of Parliament to use both capital and income, the Church will need to frame new proposals to Parliament to facilitate the commissioners' continuing responsibility for past service pension liabilities. Such proposals will need to show that the proposed arrangements are working well and command the confidence of both Church and Parliament. By this time transitional payments will have ceased.

The final clauses deal with the reconstitution of the pensions board and the taking and using of actuarial advice both by the commissioners and the new pensions board.

There were some who expressed a wish that there be the possibility of a money purchase approach through a group personal pension arrangement. It was, however the overwhelming wish of the Church of England, not least among the clergy, to support the proposed scheme which provides uniformity and equity whether one ministers in a rich or a poor parish, within a rich or a poor diocese. The proposals I bring to your Lordships' House command, as I have indicated the widest possible support.

The effect of the Measure is to put the costs of ministry on a more secure and more sustainable basis. The clergy and their dependants will be clear that their pensions are fully protected. The Church Commissioners will have the capacity to honour their historic trusts and support the maintenance of a nationwide parochial ministry. The dioceses are ready to meet the demands that the measure will make on their giving. To delay implementation would undermine much of what has been achieved in the past five years. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.--(The Lord Bishop of Bristol.)


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