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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on her statement about British policy on a European army, but could she make it absolutely clear to President Sarkozy that the British Government
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The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, the number of visitors to the Palace of Westminster from April to September 2008 inclusive was an estimated 515,034. In the same period last year there were 556,823 visitors, and the same six months in 2006 saw 491,592 visitors. Although the overall number of visitors has dropped slightly since the same period last year, there were increases in the number of Parliamentary Education Service visitors and the number of visitors on the summer tours.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I thank the Chairman of Committees for that response. Does he agree that it is most important to get young people visiting Parliament and that the expansion of the Parliamentary Education Service and the Lord Speakers initiative on visits to schools will enhance that? How many schools have visited Parliament in the past six months?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness about the priority of young people and the work of the education service. I pay tribute to her for the work that she does with the education service, and to the Peers in Schools programme that has been developed recently by the Lord Speaker. It is of great importance and I encourage more Members to consider becoming involved in it.
I cannot give the actual number of schools that have visited, but the total number of young people visiting through the education service has gone up enormously to 29,000 last year from 17,000 the year before, 11,000 the year before that and 9,700 the year before that.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, has the Lord Chairman read the editorial in this months Country Life? I am sure he reads it as regularly and religiously as I do. The piece is entitled Fortress Westminster and talks about the deeply unwelcoming image that the Corus steel barriers give to visitors to the Palace of Westminster, and how that discourages visitors from
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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, it might surprise the noble Lord to learn that I have not read Country Life; it is not my regular reading matter. For the time being, however, the Corus barriers are here to stay.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, plans for the education centre have advanced. Noble Lords will be glad to know that it is proposed to be in House of Commons territory; plans have been developed and a site has been identified underneath the Commons Chamber, on the Lower Secretaries Floor. That was agreed by the House of Commons Administration Committee in May this year. However, it will take some time before it is built2012 is the projected date. That is largely because of the need to find places elsewhere for those who currently occupy the space.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, while we all appreciate that the security arrangements are necessary and keep us secure, are there any negotiations with another place about the timing of functions so that everyone does not arrive between 5.30 and 6.30 in the evening when functions are held at 6pm and 7pm so that there is not a backlog in the queues?
The Chairman of Committees: Yes, my Lords, that is a problem particularlywell, entirelywith House of Commons functions: very many of them start at the same time, which causes a serious backlog at the Cromwell Green entrance. It should not apply to your Lordships functions, because entrance to those is through Black Rods Garden entrance.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, does the Chairman of Committees agree that the visitor experience would be greatly enhanced if the piece of waste ground opposite Parliament which used to be the Abingdon green were restored to its former state? Is he aware that the Written Answer he gave me on the subject last week was really rather disappointing because we were
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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I think it is stretching the original Question to say very much about the green opposite; as the noble Lord says, I answered his Question for Written Answer last week. I hope that we will see the recommencement of work very shortly; new contracts are in process and, this being a problem for Westminster Council rather than ourselves, the plans are to complete the work by the middle of next spring.
Lord Elton: My Lords, will the Lord Chairman make it part of his brief, or make it someone elses, to keep an eye on the way in which the function of this House, in parliamentary apparatus, is displayed to the public in the various exhibition items that are put on view? It is my impression, from time to time, that they have been designed and organised by the other place, principally for an exhibition about how it works.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, there is something in what the noble Lord says. However, we are assured that as far as the educational visits are concerned and especially when the education centre opens, the House of Lords will be given due prominence.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the enormous improvements to the House of Lords website have given young people a lot more information and a lot more encouragement to know about the work of Parliament?
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, as I frequently take visitors around this House and the Commons, I sometimes wonder, looking at the very, very tiny children who come here, how much they will learn about the work done here and about this place. Is there any age limit? I sometimes think that they come here when they are a little too young.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: 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.
(a) the person is employed by the company under a contract of employment, and
(b) there is at least one other person who is employed by the company under a contract of employment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, noble Lords may recall the debate in Committee about the impact of the employer duty provisions in the Bill on non-executive directors. That debate was instigated by an amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, who raised an interesting issue about whether non-executive directors were exempt from being automatically enrolled.
We do not want to change the current market practice in relation to directors and have always considered non-executive directors to be outside the scope of these reforms. However, following further consideration and discussions with the noble Baroness, Amendment No. 65 is designed to avoid doubt by ensuring that a director with a contract of employment is included in the reforms, and a director with any other contract or letter is excluded. This would mean that unless a non-executive director has a contract of employment, they will not be automatically enrolled. Ultimately, if there is any ambiguity in a non-executive directors contract about their employment status, then a decision about whether they should be enrolled will have to be made on an individual basis. Any uncertainty about employment status will have to be resolved by looking at the contract and possibly the factual background of how the document came into existence, the intention of the parties and how the relationship operated.
Amendment No. 65 also acts as a technical amendment to remove an anomaly in respect of sole worker-directors. Worker-directors pay themselves as a worker for their own company. Sometimes, they may be the sole worker in the company. In such cases, the Bill could create a situation where worker-directors would be required automatically to enrol themselves into pension saving and could then choose whether to opt out. Applying the duties in such cases would place unnecessary administrative burden on the worker-director, their scheme and the regulator.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing the amendment and for responding constructively to the issues that I raised when I moved my amendment in Committee. It is helpful to have directors dealt with in the Bill. The more I research the issue and discuss it with the Minister and his officials, the more I realise that there is no simple answer to this issue, because much depends on the facts of individual cases. I support the approach that the Government have taken. I have just one plea: when the department or, as is more likely, the regulator issues guidance to employers on how to apply the Act, will they make it clear that the default or normal position is for non-executive directors not to be auto-enrolled except in particular circumstances, that being the purpose of the amendment that the Minister has just moved?
(1) Before the end of six months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State must prepare and lay before Parliament a report setting out the matters referred to in subsection (2).
(a) the amounts of money that have been incurred on personal accounts up to the date of the report together with an estimate of the amounts that will be incurred during the 10 years beginning with the date of the report,
(b) the amount, if any, of the money included in the estimates under paragraph (a) which will not be recovered from charges to members of a personal accounts pension scheme,
(c) the charges which will be borne by members of a personal accounts pension scheme, and
(d) the date on which the personal accounts pension scheme will start to operate and the date on which it will, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, be fully operational.
(a) the Secretary of State,
(b) the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority,
(c) the trustee corporation referred to in section 73, and
(d) a personal accounts pension scheme.
(4) The charges which will be borne by members referred to in subsection (2)(c) shall be shown as an annual percentage of the sums expected to be invested in the personal accounts scheme or in any other way that the Secretary of State believes will provide a reasonable representation of the costs borne by members.
(5) References to personal accounts are references to the relevant proposals about personal accounts under section 21 of the Pensions Act 2007 (c. 22) and the matters dealt with under Chapters 5 and 6 of this Act.
(7) A reference to the personal accounts pension scheme being fully operational is a reference to the scheme being capable of making arrangements which fulfil the obligations of an employer under section 3 of this Act with any employer which wishes to do so.
(8) If it appears to the Secretary of State that it would be prejudicial to securing the best value from the use of public money to publish any matter by including it in a report under this section, he may exclude that matter from that report.
(9) This section shall cease to have effect on the day on which the Secretary of State makes a written or oral statement to Parliament that in his opinion the pension scheme established under section 66 is fully operational.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the new clause would introduce a requirement for the Government to make a report to Parliament on the costs and implementation of personal accounts. In Committee, we pressed the Government hard on various detailed aspects of the personal accounts scheme which the Government, with the assistance of PADA, are seeking to deliver. We did not get very far on any of the crucial issues about the costs of personal accounts or the likelihood of their being delivered by 2012. The Minister variously stood behind commercial confidentiality and the existence of some high-level information on implementation from the chief executive of PADA, which had been placed in the Library of another place.
We have lent our support to the concept of personal accounts, but that support is not unconditional. No one can be expected to sign up to personal accounts at any cost or in any form that PADA considers itself capable of delivering. Given the huge problem of lack of saving for retirement, no one can be expected to sign up to the possibility of a delivery date beyond 2012, especially as the Pensions Commission report recommended an earlier delivery date. More importantly, no one should be expected to sign up to a project whose detailed implementation is shrouded in mystery. No one should give the Government a blank cheque on this, and we certainly have not done so.
We fear that personal accounts will be delivered late. The latest weasel words are that they will be launched in 2012, but there has been no description of the functional capability of the scheme at that date. There has certainly been no confirmation of a start date of 1 April 2012, and anybody who has ever run a payroll department will tell you that implementing payroll changes on dates other than 1 April is a potential nightmare.
Importantly, we do not know the total cost of delivering personal accounts and how those costs will compare with the 0.3 per cent annual charge that the Pension Commission put forward in its final report. The Government subsequently said that they thought that the initial cost might be 0.5 per cent to take account of various factors, but all of the noise in the
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In Committee, we tabled an amendment to wind up PADA, not in 2012 but by the end of 2013, because we recognise that PADA would overlap with the start of personal accounts. We reckon that that should disappear fairly shortly after personal accounts have been set up. The Government did not accept 2013 and would not even accept my offer of an extra two years to 2015. We fear another runaway computer project. The public sector is littered with IT projects that failed to deliver either functionality or within cost budgets, or both. I will name just a few to remind the Housethe Child Support Agency, tax credits, NHS IT. We all have our own personal examples.
We have no idea about the nature of the solution that is being adopted for personal accounts and we do not know how the risks to implementation are being identified or how they will be managed. Mr Frank Field, who has devoted considerable time in this area and who has become a personal account sceptic, warned recently in Pensions Week:
There is ... the likelihood that the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority will implode. The new body will depend on a specially commissioned IT scheme. When did the government last commission a successful IT operation?.
In short, we know almost nothing about personal accounts, but are fearful about what we do not know. Parliament is expected to take delivery of personal accounts on time and at a reasonable cost as a matter of faith because the Government say so.
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