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Periods Of Further Service

Volume 165: debated on Wednesday 17 January 1990

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

May I ask again a question that I asked on Second Reading about the legal propriety of legislation to amend Acts that have been repealed? As I said then, it strikes me as absurd in the extreme and, indeed, incompetent for clause 2(5) to be included in the Bill without some discussion and some explanation of why the Treasury solicitors consider it necessary to amend the repealed Pensions (Increase) Act 1965. If it is competent to do so, I should like an explanation of why it is necessary. The Minister addressed the matter briefly on Second Reading and, as far as I can remember, said that he thought that it was necessary so that people could understand what was supposed to have been the position between 1965 and 1971. Following the coming into effect of the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971, the appropriate increases were implemented.

If the Treasury solicitors are going to make the amendment of repealed Acts a habit in the future, we shall all be led a merry dance. I could suggest a number of candidates for amendment among repealed Acts, but I think that those outside the House will not understand, and will think that we have nothing better to do with our time. I was not satisfied with the explanation that I was given on Second Reading, and I should be obliged if the Minister would have another stab at it tonight.

I will have a shot at it.

Clause 2 amends the law on two small, technical aspects of pensions increase to align it with the actual practice followed by public service schemes. There are two separate issues. First, subsections (1), (2), (3) and (5) amend the Pensions (Increase) Acts 1965 and 1971 to make the law relating to the increase of pensions of certain re-employed scheme members what it was always thought to have been. The Acts include provisions to ensure that re-employed scheme members—that is, those who have left, and rejoined with a break in service—do not have a lower pension because of the way in which the Acts would otherwise apply on their cases.

However, special provision then had to be made for the teachers' schemes because of provisions in those schemes that allowed teachers to qualify for a pension in certain types of employment or other absence from teaching which did not count towards their eventual pension. The relevant words have always been interpreted by the Departments concerned in a particular way which they believed that the Acts prescribed. The clause validates that interpretation and the practice that those schemes have followed since 1965. I should emphasise that the practice of scheme managements will not be changed, and in that sense no pensioners will be affected. No doubt you, Sir Paul, followed those remarks with particular attention in view of your previous responsibility for pension matters some years ago.

Clause 2(4) corrects an unintended anomaly in the application of the same provisions to the dependants of re-employed scheme members. As it is now worded, section 4(3) of the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 would apply only to dependants' pensions calculated as a proportion of the scheme member's pension. It would not appply to a dependant's pension calculated directly by reference to the scheme member's salary and years of service. The practice of scheme managements has always been to apply section 4(3) where appropriate to dependants' pensions, however calculated.

The 1965 Act was repealed by the 1971 Act, but without prejudice to the operation of the repealed provisions in respect of the period ending 31 August 1971. The aim of the clause is to ensure that the provision has the effect that it should have had since 1965.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) asked why clause 2 was necessary. I think that I have explained the reason in general terms, but let me explain more specifically: if we left it out, there would be an obligation to trace all past pensioners, and to compensate any who had not benefited but should have. That would probably be impossible and certainly very costly. It would be unfair and possibly illegal not to do so.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.