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The other aspect referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, in moving the amendment is how suppliers will use this information. Perhaps I may deal with one or two of the points made earlier by other noble Lords. It is thought that everyone will somehow have their privacy invaded without their knowledge. That is not the intention; rather it is that individuals will have an opportunity to pursue the issue. They will be identified for the energy company if they agree to that; they will not be forced into it. The Age Concern data I have referred to emphasise that that should be of prime concern, and I agree. Elderly people need an explanation of what they are letting themselves in for.
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I turn now to the other 50 per cent of people whom my noble friend was concerned about. To think that only old people face problems is quite wrong; there are dreadful problems if you have to use 10 per cent of your income to pay for heat and other appliances. This is clearly of grave concern; hence, my question to the Minister to encourage clarity on these issues: what next? If a satisfactory arrangement is worked out and a fuel company clearly identifies what it intends to do with the information, we must ensure that those not included in the Bill are still dealt with.
The agreement announced recently in the Budget indicated that there would be an extra £225 million from the fuel suppliers over the next three years, an increase from £50 million a year to £150 million a year on social measures. That is to be welcomed, although almost all of it has probably been absorbed by recent price increases, while the anticipated further price rises make the problem even more difficult to deal with, and even more important. Perhaps the Minister could indicate, as I will, that fuel companies are not constrained by the £225 million. It is not a cap but an opportunity to develop still further. Their record is good, in my view, and they have tended to receive less credit than they deserve. Appeals to them to be more targeted in their advice have now also been honoured, and the challenge is also to the energy companies. If we have a problem that is not solved by further, long consideration of this Bill, I think that it will be regretted.
I have one final, small point on the proposed new clause. A figure in its subsection (5)(b) refers to costs. Your Lordships may think it so particular that it need not be mentioned. The Secretary of State is, understandably, given the power to recover the costs. In fact, although as a non-lawyer I hesitate to enter this fray, the words could also be construed as implying that suppliers could, in some way, have their costs introduced. I mention that because, while the Government understandably need to finance their activities, the last thing that an elderly or disabled person in fuel poverty would want to read is that the sum of money devoted to social initiatives will drain away into costs. Some clear indication at a later stage, perhaps on Report, that this measure will be as cost-constrained and developed as it can be would be helpful. I support the amendment.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, particularly those who have supported the amendment and done so enthusiastically. I will seek to respond first to the
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It is my understanding that the noble Lord is also right on the fuel companies not being constrained by the figure of £225 million. If they wish to double it, or even do a bit more, the Government and those in fuel poverty would be delighted. He also makes an important point about the costs: we need to be clear on them. I think that the costs referred to here are those of dealing with the information exchange, but the noble Lord is absolutely right that we need to be clear who will bear those. We do not want those in fuel poverty to have to bear those costs.
Regarding those other than pensioners, the noble Lord asked What next?. I will probably write with more detail on that, as today I have before me the issues on pensions and pensioner credit. A point that arose from discussing the Energy Bill is that unless data-sharing measures are quite targeted, you run the risk of falling foul of data-sharing legislation, which is why there is a clear nexus between outcomes for those on pension credit and fuel poverty. Applying that to other groups needs more thought and discussion.
The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, asked what I meant by, as I think he said it, information from energy suppliers being good enough to warrant data sharing. We need to be satisfied that what is on offer from energy suppliers is good enough to warrant data sharing. Obviously, how energy companies deploy the resources that they have voluntarily agreed to make available is, ultimately, up to them. If they chose to make only a portion of that available through this process, we would need to judge whether it is therefore right in those circumstances still to share information and go forward with these provisions. I was trying to make that point.
The noble Lord rather unfairly asked why we were treating pensioners as guinea pigs. That is not the case at all. We are taking powers now as we have a legislative opportunity to do so. A lot more work is needed to put them into effect, but there is a clearly identifiable group of people whom we can support if they are fuel poor, and it is right that we should do so.
Lord Skelmersdale: The Minister accuses me of unfair criticism. What lay behind my thought was that there will be a welfare Bill next year, as he well knows. Given that there is a lot of discussion going on in all this, when the data-sharing measure is introduced, for this specific, correct and reasonable reason, it should be applied to everyone in fuel poverty, not just pensioners.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I acknowledge that concern, but the starting pointand this came up in the energy debateis that to be able to share information in this
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Lord Mogg: The question posed by the noble Lord is a good one. The mention of that Bill suggests that it is a useful vehicle for those remaining, to the extent that they are covered, but perhaps the Minister will agree that this means the regulations to bring this measure forward even faster can be got on to the statute book. As it is, if your Lordships agree and the Bill passes, it will still be another year before the Bill can be applied, so the noble Lord is correct in his implied conclusion.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. I want to be clear with regard to data sharing, about which there was some difficulty in the Energy Bill. Essentially, data sharing needs to be proportionate; that is, there needs to be a beneficial outcome for the great majority of those whose data are shared, and one that as far as possible is awarded automatically. That is why we can proceed with thiswe have the opportunity to do so. If we have a welfare reform Bill next year, we will have another opportunity to do more.
The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, said that the Government were passing the buck to energy suppliers. I do not agree at all. There is a range of issues on which the Government are playing a direct partI will not go through the whole list; the noble Lord is very familiar with themregarding winter fuel payments, but this is an opportunity to work with the suppliers and we shall be grateful for the role they will play.
Data security is vital; it is at the heart of ensuring that the system works as we would want it to. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, asked how the power will be used. The Bill specifies that it may be used only for the benefit of people on pension credits; regulations will have to work within that and other legal frameworks.
I hope that that has dealt with the range of points raised. This is an important issue. I am grateful for the support of noble Lords. We need to move ahead with this and then do more at subsequent opportunities.
(4) At the request of the pensioner or (where the pensioner is dead) any other person claiming to be affected, the Secretary of State may direct that, on the giving of the direction, subsection (5) takes effect in relation to the period or periods of pre-1948 insurance.
(7) Where subsection (5) has taken effect in relation to a period or periods of pre-1948 insurance, the relevant authority may pay to any person an amount not exceeding any amount that would, but for subsection (5), have been payable to that person in respect of
German pension entitlement means entitlement to benefits arising under insurance with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung, or any other entitlement that appears to the Secretary of State to be relevant for the purposes of this section;
The noble Lord said: I wish to speak also to government Amendments Nos. 136AB, 141F, 141G, 142CA and 142CB. The purpose of these amendments is to remove an anomaly that has arisen as a result of the interaction between the pre-Beveridge UK pension arrangements, European Community law and German pension provision. These amendments seek to help individuals who came to the UK as children to escape the Nazi persecution in their home countries between 2 December 1938 and 31 May 1940. This operation became known as Kindertransport.
There is no question but that coming to Britain was the best outcome for these children, but there was a tremendous variation in the fortunes of those who came. Some had benefactors who ensured that they received an excellent education and every advantage. Others were less lucky and were obliged to work in manual jobs straightaway, or as soon as they reached minimum school leaving age. Only the latter group would have been insured under the social insurance scheme as it existed before Beveridges reforms took effect in 1948. People insured under the old scheme were credited into the new national insurance scheme at that time and thereby have rights in the present UK state pension scheme.
For most people this made little or no difference; for a minority it was advantageous. However, uniquely for certain of the Kindertransportees it transpired to be disadvantageous. When Germany opened its state pension schemes to the Kindertransportees in the early 1990s, some of them opted to take back their German nationality and to pay a voluntary contribution to join one of the schemes. These people were credited with German contributions for the period from 1939 to 1949. Those in manual occupations found that, under European Community regulations designed to prevent duplication of provision in the case of cross-border workers, their pre-1948 UK credits took precedence over the German credits, resulting in a reduced or, depending on their age, significantly reduced German pension. By way of comparison, those Kindertransportees who were not insured under the pre-1948 arrangement in the UK because they were in education or salaried non-insured occupations at the time were able to gain the full value of their German credits for this period. Understandably, the Kindertransportees were, and remain, much aggrieved by this disparity of treatment.
These amendments enable a Kindertransportee who has a German pension entitlement that is reduced or extinguished by a period of pre-1948 insurance to request that they are deemed not to have had such insurance. I believe that it is right that we should seek to remedy this unfairness. I beg to move.
Lord Skelmersdale: This is an eminently sensible and long overdue amendment. For a Pensions Bill, this and the previous amendment are extremely interesting. However, I should like to probe the Minister a little on whether the pension entitlement that is being given up will be amalgamated back into the general fund. Although we all know that NICsin those days, pension credits appliedare not held in a bank account waiting for the contributor to retire, these pensioners paid money to the Government in the expectation that they would be recompensed. What sums are we talking about? What is the average pot that is being given up? How many pensionersthe so-called Kindertransporteesare involved in this exercise?
Lord McKenzie of Luton: Originally there were about 10,000 Kindertransportees. We are aware of 150 individuals who might benefit from this. Nothing is being given up in terms of returning contributions to individuals. We propose to wipe these peoples insurance recordsif that is what they want; it will not necessarily
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In a minority of cases it is possible that removing the pre-1948 insurance record could reduce a Kindertransportees entitlement to UK state pension. That is not the intended effect of these provisions, so we propose that the Secretary of State should have discretion to maintain an individuals UK contributory benefits at their existing level should he wish to. They will not lose out on current UK entitlement. We simply wipe the record and create the opportunity for an increased German provision. I hope that that helps.
(1) In section (Pre-1948 insurance affecting German pension entitlement) a period of pre-1948 insurance means any period ending before 6th April 1948 to which subsection (2) applies by reference to any person (the insured person).
The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 136AC is an exploratory amendment to find out the Governments attitude. Precedent would suggest that they will accept the spirit of what is set out here, if not the detail. It is a familiar point. We debated it during our consideration of the last Pensions Bill. On that occasion, the amendment was accepted by the Government, for which I am grateful.
The point is that post-legislative scrutiny is just as important as pre-legislative scrutiny. You could make an argument, particularly in relation to pensions legislation, that post-legislative scrutiny is rather more important, because all the mistakes appear to take place afterwards in the administration of the scheme. Things are missed out. Mistakes rarely occur because the legislation was set out badly. In my experience, they have often been the result of administrative error. Errors of this kind take place and no one should be totally surprised about them. The only trouble is that, if errors take place in pensions, the costs are substantial.
That is basically the case. I will not set it out again, because the Minister has heard all my arguments previously. He has only to look them up and read them from 12 months ago and he will see the case all set out. I am basically asking for some kind of checking mechanism that the purposes of the Bill amount to the reality in the later Act and how it goes into effect.
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