|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol for introducing this resolution. As the right reverend Prelate will know, I am a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee and discussed this Measure at some length when it came before us.
The second question is, while I accept absolutely that the Ecclesiastical Committee deemed this measure to be expedient and certainly it is a realistic approach to the future of clergy pensions, what then happens if, within the time period before the guaranteed period, existing clergy who retire under the existing scheme have not yet built up any fund under the measure? What happens to them? Are they to be excluded from this new scheme?
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I thank your Lordships for the time which has been given. I will try to answer the two very pertinent questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel. The first is hypothetical but is nevertheless well asked. I think it would be true to say that the cover that the Church Commissioners' present assets provide in relation to any demands that could be made in the future over a very large number of years is, in fact, twice as much as is asked for. If the hypothetical state suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, came about, I suspect that not only the Church Commissioners and the pension scheme but everybody else would be in trouble. I believe that the cover presently given to past service liability is more than adequate to allow for any fluctuations in the market--other than in the event of a total disaster in the market, in which case everybody would be in the same situation.
Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the right reverend Prelate. There was a disaster, and the Church Commissioners did invest in what many people would regard as an unwise manner. They lost what was by any standards a very great deal of money. What guarantee do the clergy have that such behaviour will not recur?
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I believe that the Church Commissioners, were they present to defend themselves, would say that they have learnt from their past experience and have put into place the kind of support and oversight which will avoid that happening again. If in fact it were to happen, which is highly unlikely, and given the cover that is presently available--that is, 2:1, which is more than anybody else would have--then I believe that the Church as a whole would be able to respond. It may take time and there may have to be a lot of talking, but I believe that we are responsible for our clergy and we accept that responsibility.
With regard to the second question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, if I understand him correctly, those who have received a pension on the basis of past liability that is guaranteed by the Church Commissioners on a pay-as-you-go basis, and those who are for their present and future liabilities dependent upon dioceses contributing sums to the funded scheme, there is every indication--and the House will remember that the Church of England has had to go through a dramatic change in its financial organisation--that the majority of
Lord Thurlow: My Lords, as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee, I should like to emphasise the unanimity with which the committee agreed that this measure was expedient. We were entirely satisfied, after discussion; and while an element of hypothesis is inevitably attached to some of the figures that may eventuate in five or six years' time, I entirely accept the right reverend Prelate's view, the view of the Synod and the Church as a whole, that the future can be faced with confidence and that we need not fear the kind of dreadful contingencies that were mentioned. Anything is possible, but is not, to any informed view, likely. I support the Motion.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, these regulations simply update, replace and simplify the existing regulations, which date from 1985. The regulations and the associated draft guidance have been the subject of full consultation with the minerals industry, mineral planning authorities, environmental and amenity bodies and other professional groups. A summary of the main points that they raised, together with the Government's response, was placed in the Library on 17th February.
As the regulations are technical and as they were discussed with the industry, it might be for the convenience of the House if I were not to go into a great deal of explanatory technical detail but to move the regulations formally. Of course if any of your Lordships has a problem relating to them I shall be only too glad to enter into the detail. I beg to move.
Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl for introducing these regulations. Could he perhaps define further the reference in paragraphs 3 and 4 to "working rights"? What does the phrase mean?
Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, does that not infringe on certain agreements which may be entered into between people who work minerals and people who do not work minerals--employers, employees? Is this not a matter on which the noble Earl might wish to take advice?
The noble Earl said: My Lords, at present boat owners who want to take their boat down a river which is managed by British Waterways need a licence from it. British Waterways is a navigation authority for over 2,000 miles of canals and navigable rivers across Britain. Local authorities also have a power to license pleasure boats under the Public Health Acts Amendment Act of 1907.
The draft order before your Lordships will remove the local authority's powers where there is already provision for British Waterways to issue licences. No protection which is currently provided by the local authorities will be lost. The deregulation order will not prevent a local authority from exercising its licensing powers where necessary on waters which are not owned or managed by British Waterways.
It makes no sense for two public authorities to license the same pleasure boats. It clearly imposes an unfair burden on hire boat businesses. I am satisfied that there will be no adverse effect on public safety. If approved by your Lordships, the regulations will come into effect on 1st January 1998. I beg to move.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the British Waterways Board is a board which is responsible for running such things as canals, waterways and so forth. They are paid members and they do their job with remarkable expedition and efficiency.