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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, of course I am happy to look at the matter, but it should be remembered that the lasting power of attorney was not meant for emergency use; it is there to enable a person to plan their future in good time. That is why,
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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, with respect, I think that the noble Lord is not right. The power of attorney is often used at a time of momentary distress, often with instructions to look after children. I speak from professional experience. It is then, at times, forgotten about and left there. It is a difficult situation, but it ought not to be regarded as a merely temporary arrangement, as the noble Lord said.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am not sure that I did get it wrong. I was referring to circumstances where an application has been made but has not yet reached full registration, where there are provisions to allow the matter to be dealt with. I think that the noble Lord is referring to what are sometimes described as fluctuating conditions, where a person may have capacity at one point but not at another. The whole point about the new structure is that it is designed to be flexible enough to deal with those circumstances.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that his honourable friend in another place, Bridget Prentice, has been organising a series of seminars with her staff? I attended the first one last Monday, which I found extremely helpful and recommend to other noble Lords. She is holding more such seminars, where staff explain why it has been taking so long to deal with the matter, why they have to raise feesbecause they have to be self-supportingand why there are two forms. I ask the noble Lord to recommend the seminar to other noble Lords.
Lord Elton: My Lords, the noble Lord has made it clear that the principal hold-up is an excess of work falling on those who have to grant the powers. Surely, when there is too much work, it is a good thing to have some more workers.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Yes, my Lords, and part of the improvement programme has been to put more people to work in the registration system, alongside more IT equipment. That is why the time taken to deal with registration, where there is nothing wrong with the way in which the form has been filled in, is expected to be back on target by the end of August.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, because these forms are easy to read. Whatever other defects noble Lords might find in them, they are absolutely clear to read. I am sure that they resulted from
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The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, my department has funded CO2 measurements at Mace Head in the Republic of Ireland since 1987. There, the latest annual average is 385 parts per million, which is the same as that measured in Hawaii, where continuous measurements of carbon dioxide have been made since 1958. Carbon dioxide is well mixed in the atmosphere; therefore, the issues are comparable. The percentage increase from 1958 to today is approximately 22 per cent; that is, from 315 parts per million to 385 parts per million.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. Is it not important to get these matters into proportion? Whatever may be the percentage increase over the period given by the noble Lord, does not the absolute figure remain microscopic? Is it not very difficult to believe that that microscopic figure is responsible for whatever global warming has taken place in recent years, particularly since, in very recent years, there appears to have been no global warming at all?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, the latter point is not correct. The averages may not have changed, but land temperature has increased considerably more than sea temperature because, in the Pacific, El Niño is a cooling factorpart of the ebb and flow. That has now switched off, as I said to my noble friend Lord Sheldon the other week. Therefore, the average can be very misleading.
An increase of 22 per cent, or of one-fifthI earlier asked officials about thisin CO2 since 1958, when measurements began in a consistent way by US scientists in Hawaii, is a considerable part of the problem. Of course, the figures I have given relate only to the Question and to CO2. Figures for greenhouse gases are much higher, at 432 parts per million. All the evidence indicates that somehow we have to stabilise them at less than 500 parts per million; otherwise, we will not need to bother about future weather forecasts.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, knowing how well my noble friend briefs himself, I assume that he has now taken the opportunity to read the book written by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson. Even if he agrees only with
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Lord Rooker: My Lords, my noble friend makes a point. No, I have not done the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, the justice of reading his book but, after the kind things he said about me a couple of weeks ago, I promise to make it a top priority. Leaving aside the forecasts for 100 years hence, let us look at the impact of what has already happened with greenhouse gas concentrations. Since 1900, the earths temperature has warmed by 0.8 degrees centigrade, much of which was in the past 50 years. Sea level has risen by 20 centimetres in the 20th century. The northern hemispheres snow cover has decreased in every month except November and December over recent decades. In the late 1980s, average snow cover dropped by 5 per cent. Arctic sea ice coverage has undergone long-term decline at all times of the year in recent decades. Last year, the extent of summer sea ice reached a record low. Those things have happened. They are not related to 100-year forecasts. Something is happening with the climate and the consensus says that we should be mindful and take some action.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for undertaking to read my book. It is short, and he will find it easy. Perhaps we may discuss it afterwards. But it really will not do to cherry-pick examples as he has done. Arctic sea ice, for example, has declined. Antarctic sea ice has increased over the past year by more than it has for many years. The average temperature is the average temperature, which he quotes when it suits him. He decries it when it does not. Does the Minister agree to look at this issue with an open mind and not perhaps be over-influenced by his departments Chief Scientific Adviser, who is a very committed person in this dispute? In fact, there are scientists on both sides, and a substantial minority30 per centdisagree with the conventional wisdom.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, to be honest, I have not had discussions about the long term with the departments Chief Scientific Adviser, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist on this issue, who speaks for the majority of scientists, a point made by the noble Lord. The fact is that the figures I have given are those measured by earth-based stations. There are other ways of measuring what has happened with CO2in ice, for example, and using satellites, which are not so accurate. The fact of the matter is that concentrations of CO2 are reckoned to have increased by 35 per cent since 1750, when the concentration stood at about 280 parts per million, and they are now higher than they have been for the past 800,000 yearsI repeat, higher than for the past 800,000 years. It may be that in the ebb and flow of time CO2 levels will go down againin another 800,000 yearsbut we need to be able to do something today if something is happening to the atmosphere that is caused by man. That is the issue: is climate change man-made or not? The consensus is that it is.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, we agree strongly with the Ministers and the Governments sense of urgency over this matter. One of the big growth areas in recent years has been that of aviation and air travel. Could the Minister outline what the Government are urgently doing now to reduce those emissions, such as in the area of airport expansion?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, we are not going to be childish and stop people taking cheap holidays, which is what the Lib Dems want us to do. We cannot do anything as a nation on aircraft emissions; it has to be done internationally. The initial stage will be through the European Union. There is a plan for the Union to take on aircraft emissions as a whole in phase 3 of the emissions trading system, which will start from 2012. This cannot be done by individual countries; it has got to be done with international agreement. To start with, we have European-wide support from 2012. It is a very thorny issue and we agree with the noble Lord, but it cannot be done by one country alone.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, with the permission of the House, my noble friend Lord Darzi of Denham will repeat the Statement entitled NHS: Next Stage Review at a convenient point after 3.30 pm.
The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to government Amendment No. 85. Clause 28 enables trustees, with the employers consent, to make changes to an occupational scheme so that it can be used for automatic enrolment under the employer duty. We want to do as much as possible to encourage employers to retain their existing generous pension provision, so we have tabled Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 to extend the modification power. The amendments enable trustees, with the employers consent, to change the rules of a scheme to increase the contribution rate and the basis of its calculation in order to satisfy the quality requirements for both occupational money purchase
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However, other schemes will not, so the trustees and the employer may want to make changes to the rules to meet the required standard. These amendments to Clause 28 will facilitate such changes. This may be particularly helpful to employers offering schemes with restrictive rules that might otherwise prevent such changes being made. Where the power under Clause 28 is used, employers will not be required to consult scheme members on such modifications.
However, we have ensured that the necessary safeguards are in place to protect members interests. Changes made under the proposed amended Clause 28 must increase contributions. Any other changes can be made using provisions elsewhere in pensions legislation and will be subject to the normal rules on consultation with scheme members. This is to discourage levelling-down and retain the existing protection for scheme members through the consultation requirements. I hope noble Lords will support the amendments. I beg to move.
Baroness Noakes: We have debated some of the issues that lie behind these amendments already in Committee. The amendments are part of the Governments denial of the problems that the definitions in the Bill will involve. They are happy to grant the trustees a power to alter the scheme rules to allow an employer to pay more or more often into a scheme, but they have not recognised that the problems the Bill will cause will operate in a different way. Employers will have to pick up the costs of any rule changes, either directly or indirectly, and Clause 28 correctly requires employer consent. But they will not give that consent unless there is some advantage to them, and it is not obvious what the advantage will be of increasing contributions under the Bill.
We will not oppose the amendments, but they do not address the real issues that will arise under the Bill of why employers would want to incur costs to amend their own schemenot only by paying more in but by changing the rules and their payroll systems to meet the definitions we discussed on our previous Committee day in connection with the group of amendments under Amendment No. 60A. The difficulties are so great that it would be easier for employers not to amend their existing schemes but simply to let personal accounts take over. Levelling-down is the elephant in the Committee. The Government cannot wish it away with amendments like this.
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: To some extent, the Government have got their timing wrong. If we were clearer on exactly how they see this working, we would be happier. Like the noble Baroness, we do not oppose the amendments in principle, but it looks as though the Government have not got their ducks in a row, if I may put it that way.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I am surprised at the reaction to these modest provisions. The noble Baroness asked what would encourage employers to make changes under their schemes to comply with the auto-enrolment and quality requirements of the Bill. It is fairly obvious: they would want to have, as they do now, good quality provision for their employees. They see the competitive advantage in many cases of good scheme provision and they do not want unwittingly to fall foul of the rules relating to qualifying earnings.
Qualifying earnings underlie the amendments and other matters that we will discuss. The Governments aim is to maximise the number of new savers and savings and to support existing pensions arrangements. We do not want to disrupt arrangements that offer good pension outcomes for savers. As noble Lords know, a number of stakeholders raised concerns about the practical arrangements for dealing with scheme qualification in relation to qualifying earnings. We discussed some of these when we debated amendments to Clauses 12 and 19.
Since then, the Minister of State for Pensions Reform and I have been talking to stakeholders about how we can make the test as simple as possible while still preserving the new minimum level of pensions savings. We focused on a suggestion by a group of four stakeholdersthe ABI, NAPF, ICAEW and SPCthe essence of which is annual reconciliation, which we have also been thinking about for a while. A key objective for the Government is to avoid disruption for existing schemes so that good arrangements may continue to function beyond 2012 without unnecessary changes or additional administrative processes. More detailed discussions with key stakeholders are already planned, and I fully expect to be able to be clear about our approach on Report. I hope that that has reassured the noble Baroness and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott.
Baroness Noakes: That was most encouraging. The issue will not go away, as we said on the previous Committee day, and I am glad that the Minister has taken the Governments thinking a little further forward. There is clearly some way to go, but I am grateful for what he has put on record.
( ) Regulations prescribing arrangements for the purposes of section 3(2), 5(2), 6(3) or 8(2) may require the employer to make such a deduction or payment at any time on or after the date with effect from which the jobholder is to become an active member of a scheme under the arrangements.
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