Tuesday, 13 March 2012.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, I should remind the Committee that if there is a Division in the Chamber, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes from the sound of the Division Bell.
Information Committee: Annual Report 2010-11
Motion to Take Note
That the Grand Committee takes note of the Annual Report for 2010-11 of the Information Committee (First Report, HL Paper 190).
My Lords, it is my pleasure to move that the Grand Committee takes note of the Information Committee’s annual report for 2010-11. It is my pleasure and privilege to chair the committee. This is the first opportunity that we have had to share our deliberations more widely among our colleagues in the House. It is important that we should take every opportunity to do so when we can. I acknowledge the fact that the business managers have found time for this important debate. Time is precious and the Grand Committee has other business this afternoon.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My Lords, before the Division was called I was remarking that the business managers have done us a favour in finding time for this important debate in Grand Committee to deal with the annual report of the Information Committee.
I am sure that I speak for all committee members in thanking both the clerks who have covered this report and our own clerk, who has succeeded Rob Whiteway, and his colleagues in the clerks’ department. We are very grateful for the support we get from the clerks’ department. That is true also of all the heads and members of the professional staff and the directorates of the work that is overseen by the committee. They are all absolutely dedicated, enthusiastic professionals. It is a privilege to serve with them and we acknowledge the contribution they have, in their individual ways, made to making what I think was a successful year’s work enshrined in the committee report.
The committee has a very important, if rather peculiar role. You could characterise what it does in the three themes that are adverted to in the early stages of the report. It is driving what benefit we can get from information technology services in the service of the House. That has many aspects and dimensions, not just in terms of servicing Members but the back-office administration functions too. It is trying to make sure that we get a much more effective message across to the wider public generally about what is going on here and how we do our business, as well as trying to inform those who are anxious to inform themselves about the work of the House. That is an important element in the work of the committee.
I will be spending the majority of my short introduction dealing with services for individual Members in the House. In that regard, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, who represents the administration authorities. We have had very good support from not just the clerks’ department but the House and administration committees in difficult financial circumstances, for which we are very grateful.
For a committee member trying to cover all the important aspects of the House’s work, it is right—good practice dictates it—to take every opportunity to report back to make sure that Members of the House and others know what is going on in the work of the committee. We do that by publishing our minutes. We are as open and transparent as possible, and that is useful. It is also right to solicit views. There is a user group dimension to the work that we do, and to be successful we need to encourage people to give their views. We must use every opportunity we can to get feedback. As another dimension, using complaints constructively and instructively is also important. We are getting better at that, particularly with the Parliamentary Information and Communication Technology side to the committee’s work. I have a sense—there is only anecdotal evidence—that PICT is rolling out services, such as the Windows 7 upgrade to operating systems on desktop and laptop machines across the whole Parliamentary Estate, with commendable efficiency and minimal disruption.
All these things involve change, and people get nervous of change. We need to keep in contact with the people we are seeking to serve, within the House, the Administration and the public. The 2010-11 report covers the first half of the Parliament—effectively, the first two years which are just coming to an end. The current period is not quite covered by that; I had hoped to mention one or two things to bring us up to date with things that have happened since July 2011. The report is a useful piece of work, and I hope we will have a useful discussion about it. For the members of the committee who are here, we need to learn what other people think about the contents of the report.
It is obviously true to anyone who has studied the work of the committee that we were bequeathed a very valuable legacy by our predecessor committee. The noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry and his colleagues produced, among other things, the seminal report, Are the Lords Listening? Creating Connections Between People and Parliament.
This report is still a work in progress before the existing committee. Indeed, my own name as chairman is on a list of ballotable debates dealing with Chapters 7 and 8. We are trying to get some feedback from the House as a whole on important questions such as the use of parliamentary language, which was identified as a barrier to people’s understanding, and to ceremonial aspects of some of the House’s work, which in modern times can produce a barrier to people’s understanding of the important work we do. There is a lot still being promoted, based on what was done before the committee took its place and started the work for this report.
The context is important too, because it has changed. The membership of the House has increased to such an extent that the pressure on all of its services, ICT and otherwise, cannot be ignored. That is something we are alive to. The political tensions and the quite hard-fought debates we have had attract attention, and we need to address and deal with that, in terms of dealing with people’s inquiries. We are also affected by deficit reduction, because everything we do in Parliament for the foreseeable future will be affected. All these things have to be considered in the mix.
We have a broad list of responsibilities. As well as parliamentary information and communication technology, we cover the Library, the important work of the Hansard reporters, public information, and bicameral services. Most bicameral services are hosted by the House of Commons, but we have our own parliamentary archive, which is a bicameral service that is brigaded in the House of Lords, and it is very valuable. Anyone who knows anything about what goes on here cannot help but be impressed by the enthusiasm of the staff and the dedication they bring to their work.
I should like to go through the five or six services to update the Grand Committee on where we are now as opposed to where the annual report ends. However, I shall spend a little longer on parliamentary information and communication technology because it is the biggest game changer that we are confronting as an institution and as a society. I do not want the House of Lords to get behind the curve to the extent that we do not relate to, and lose traction with, a public who are now involved in social networking and all that that means.
It is a struggle to stay on top of that degree of change but—I probably say this because I am chairman of the Information Committee and we are supposed to be doing this—we are ahead of this important area of public policy in many ways, particularly in the use and piloting of tablet technology. Since the report was completed in July 2011, two significant things have happened. First, the Information Committee agreed to undertake a tablet technology pilot. I stress the word “tablet” because this is not an iPad trial; it is a tablet trial. We must be careful that we do not end up as commercial agents for Apple Incorporated, however good the technology may be. That is easy to do, in the way that vacuum cleaners suddenly became Hoovers, and we need to be careful when talking about generic technology because it changes so fast. Machines are being trialled effectively at the moment by members of the committee and we will consider the first phase of the results at our important committee meeting tomorrow. The likelihood is that the evaluation of the work of tablet technology will need to continue before we can say with certainty that we want to deploy the servicing and the back-up of tablets for Members.
My noble friend invited comments, and as I have a Select Committee hearing to go to, I wonder whether perhaps he can help me with a question at the moment. I appreciate how PICT has helped individual members—it has been really helpful to me—but I get worried sometimes about the attitude within the Information Committee. It feels that issuing computers and laptops to Members is somehow a gift and that it is being very kind to us. In fact, those machines are there to help us with our work. We do not get any secretarial allowance now and those of us who come from outwith London have been seriously disadvantaged as a result.
When the committee considers this issue tomorrow, can more flexibility be written into the allocation of computers and laptops? For example, on page 8 of the report it says that we are entitled to a range of things, including one Blackberry handheld device. When I ask whether I can substitute something else for that Blackberry handheld device, such as another laptop or a tablet, I am told that I cannot do so. This kind of inflexibility creates problems for noble Lords who are only trying to carry out their job as Members of the House. Could the committee consider some greater flexibility in the allocation of equipment in the future?
Indeed. I am grateful for that intervention. We have to be open and honest and tell the unvarnished truth about the degree of change that will be coming if the ICT strategy that the committee has agreed in principle is rolled out by May 2015. I am keen on using that as a planning date. Previously we could not say with certainty when the Parliament will end, so being able to ask ourselves where we want to be by May 2015 is a useful device. It enables us to devise strategies and get plans in place.
In answer to my noble friend’s question, the ambition is to become device-neutral and provide internet-based services in the sky anywhere, any time and any place. The service will then change from a hardware-based system—as it tends to be at the moment, with broadband lines being provided and serviced—to inviting Members to use whatever device platform and in whatever combination they are comfortable with. We will guarantee bespoke services, including coaching in terms of individual Members’ ways of working. This plays into the important point that my noble friend makes. We all do things differently and struggle to look after ourselves without a heavy staff back-up. The best way we can do this within the financial envelope we face is to develop these services. I promise my noble friend that I have seen some of the early prototype services and they are stunningly useful on a tablet device.
We have to be absolutely upfront about this because people need time to plan. If this strategy works, we will not be in the business of handing hardware to people after 2015. We will not, indeed, be putting broadband connections into people’s homes. That is a huge change and people will be frightened by it, but the Committee’s important duty over the next two years is to try to win the argument about why we are making this change. It is not just about money, but it is about money; because you can do this an awful lot more cheaply. If my noble friend just thinks about the rate at which some of these devices change, then if, after 2015, you were locked into supplying people with up-to-date hardware, you would have to change the equipment you offered with such regularity to keep them ahead of the industry standard that it would cost an unimaginable sum of money.
I think people will get desktops in the main precincts of the Palace of Westminster because they are easily maintained by a central staff, but my ambition is to get everyone else mobile; and what a tablet device or platform gives you is the ability to work anywhere as long as you have a wi-fi connection. That is the first thing that the committee knows about and the strategy that we have agreed. We have a sterling job to do on that because people will understandably be slightly apprehensive—that is probably the best word—until they understand what is being offered to them.
Secondly, this is where the House Committee’s assistance comes in and again I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon. We now have the authority to wi-fi enable the whole estate over the next 12 months. That is a massive assistance. It puts us as an institution ahead of any other parliamentary service for tablet provision that I know of. The Italians are spending a lot of money and doing a lot of work on this and the Canadians have always had a reputation for it. The Brazilians are spending a lot of money as well. There is an international best practice sharing operation going on and by next year we could be seen as leading the service provision for individual parliamentary members because of the applications that we will be able to put on these devices. They will be crafted by our own people to assist Members of the House of Lords and I promise that when colleagues see the results of this work when it is rolled out—I hope within the next 12 months—people will see the reason and the justification for what we are doing in ICT.
In parenthesis, I want to be clear that we give an assurance to people who want their services delivered on a paper-based basis that they will always be catered for. That does not mean to say that the back-office machinery will not be done by clever enabled technology. People who are uncomfortable working in anything other than in a paper-based situation will always be catered for. That is an assurance the Committee would want to give so that that level of apprehension can be contained.
I have been slightly distracted. I wanted to talk about some of the other services. The Information Office, the Library, the Parliamentary Archive and the public information services have all done extremely well. The results of that are in the report. If I had had more time I would have given an update about the services that have been developed since July 2011 in each of those categories.
The Information Committee is at the forefront of ensuring that by 2015 we will be in the best possible place for incoming Members. However they come to this institution after May 2015, we will be confident that we will be able to provide them with an ICT back service which is fit for purpose.
I started with three themes: driving the ICT agenda forward with as much determination and as much robustness as we can, coupled with getting our message across to the general public about what is happening here so that they understand our work better, and getting the bespoke services fully operational and robust and fit for purpose. These are the things for the second half of the Parliament that the Committee will be committed to doing on behalf of the whole House. On that basis, I hope that colleagues will accept this report as a work in progress, and I beg to move.
My Lords, I begin, having been here rather too long, with a vote of thanks to our chairman, who has a remarkably light touch sometimes in that all the meetings we have attended have finished exactly on time, usually when I have plucked up the courage to say something.
I will speak not on the high-tech areas, but on slightly simpler ground. We have 827 Members of this House—there have been 118 new ones since the last election. Those on leave of absence make it 788 people. These are, in a way, our customer base. However, unlike many great institutions, we do not know each other. I am prepared to guess that on average nobody knows more than 100 Peers. Therefore there is almost a need for introductions or facial recognition. That has worried me quite considerably. I now know my noble friends the Liberal Democrats, but when you sit behind your own colleagues and see only the back of their head, you tend to find it easier to recognise the Opposition, so I have suggested some things that could be done. I asked Black Rod whether it would be possible for the names on the badges to be a bit bigger, because people come up, and look down, and say, “Who is that?”. This is just a simple basis of information.
We have a duty to communicate with Members of the House and to provide them with facilities in difficult times. As we know, wi-fi is going to be a very long way away and quite an expensive exercise. On the other hand, we are still a paper-based House. The Printed Paper Office points out that it has 2,000 different reports in its basement, that it receives and issues more paper than ever before, and that the number of lines per sheet of paper has dropped to about eight from 15. Many people still require paper. It will be a long time until we have caught up with the technology to get rid of the paper.
However, we are in the information business. We often forget that we are lucky enough to have probably one of the best libraries of its sort in the world. When I came here I did not realise that a librarian was more qualified than almost anyone else in the information business and suggested to the Library that I would quite like to be a librarian. They looked up to me in a down-looking way until I realised that you can find anything you want in that Library.
Over the past 10 years, the Library has issued 155 reports of great quality, but they are not as widely distributed as I would have hoped. One reason is that some of the data in those reports are sensitive because the Library does not necessarily own the intellectual property. But those reports would be a good promotion for the House; they could be more widely distributed and more easily issued to universities, academics, colleges and the general public. I have a list of those reports, which include everything from the adoption of children back in 2002 right the way through to Lords reform and human tissue legislation. It is quite a remarkable collection. The number of reports doubles in direct proportion to the size of the House and the demands of Peers. Many of the newer Peers do not know what they can get out of the Library.
Another thing we do for the production of information is to ask questions. Your Lordships will know well that certain Peers like to read about themselves in Questions more than anybody else. In this Parliament, we have had a total of 16,389 Questions for Written Answer. That is quite a lot. I went to the Library to ask staff about it—I beat them to it, because fortunately the Public Bill Office had explained that in the green paper each Question is numbered. So the number against the last Question tells you exactly how many there have been without your having to do any research.
On top of that, we have had 1,100 Starred Questions. That is quite easy to work out. You take the number of days that the House sat and multiply it by four, because there are four Questions a day, so that research did not take very long. All that information is in the public domain and much of it could be of great interest to the general public, probably more interesting that some of the extracts from your Lordships’ speeches, monologues or dialogues.
In that information area, we have to accept that people who come here are people with whom we communicate. There have been comments from time to time in the press that perhaps we are eating or drinking too much, too cheaply, or perhaps too freely. So I thought that it would be a good idea if I asked the Banqueting department how many people it had had last year. It had received more than 55,000 guests from institutions that nobody could criticise. I retyped the whole lot; I took out the names of Peers in case anybody thought a Peer might be on a freebie, or something else, but I left in two great celebrations when there were large birthday parties for individual Peers. Of those 750 events, none was any burden on the public purse—they actually provide a surplus—and they generated revenue through the shops. That is an important part of what one might call outreach.
I have not been out to speak to people. I was what was once called a Snopake speaker: when anybody let anybody down, I was the last one invited to speak. I would go to the dinner and scratch the menu to see whose name was typed under mine. But bringing people to this place is very worth while. I have been on a few tours and am now fully briefed. We should not worry about the older age group. Yes, it is a good idea to take soldiers round when they have been on things and to let them be recognised. So I went for the youngest ones; I said that I would like to bring round a young school group. I asked what the youngest was that they could cope with and they said eight or nine—so we brought round a team of five year-olds from my grandson’s class. They went round and had a whale of a time. Each one of them, in their own writing, wrote a letter of thanks, and said that the thing that they had enjoyed most was the nice lady who showed them round, the gold and the big hall. Those sorts of things make you feel good. When we have outreach in schools, in many cases it might not be a bad idea to put the House of Lords on an agenda for the history class and have every school in London coming in.
I have another suggestion to make on the lack of knowledge that we ourselves have about the House—certainly the lack of knowledge on procedures, which we know full well, and how we discipline our colleagues to stop them shouting and jumping up and down. When I first came here I was very nervous and everybody got my name wrong. The Chief Whip said, “You ought to make a maiden speech”, which I did, although I chickened out twice. He then said, “You can intervene now; I think you can intervene at Question Time”. So I said, “Well, what do I do, sir?”. He said, “Well, you stand up very quickly, because you are athletic, to ask a supplementary question and you will therefore be the quickest up, as you are one of the youngest. But then other people will get up and you will know they are more important than you—because the whole of the House is more important than you—and therefore you sit down. But you sit down very slowly, as though you were arthritic. They will turn to you—realising that you stood up first. Do that, and they will sit down”. Two Peers stood up and then sat down. I forgot what question I was going to ask and felt rather nervous. I did not know afterwards that the Chief Whip and the Leader of the Opposition had arranged this so that I would feel comfortable, and that the two Peers who stood up were only doing that to make me feel at home. Now, when one looks at Question Time, it is a barnstorming. I make a list—I call it the black list—of those who jump up, intervene and shout. It is not necessary—and that is part of the character of the House that has gone.
I will not go on about iPads because although I started with a computer, I could not make it work so I went to the Alfred Marks girls’ school, as Miss Selsdon, up in Oxford Street and Tracy, Sharon and Gail helped me. One needs that sort of friendliness; one feels embarrassed as a man if one cannot cope.
We have the Queen’s Jubilee Thames event coming up. I promise not to interfere in my capacity as Secretary and Treasurer of the House of Lords Yacht Club, although I believe that I could have the right to get three barges alongside. When the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who is in charge of this, was briefing us the other day, we suddenly realised that the House of Lords, or Parliament, will be the focus. When the parade goes by, all the television cameras will be on the other side of the river. The suggestion was that this might be viewed by 3 billion people over a period of time—I am not sure how long the parade lasts, but perhaps for two hours. Some of the boats that are lower in the water are going to be quite difficult to see. However, on the main barge, I hope that we have got the Armada bell, which I have arranged to be put there with the ring. The argument for the Armada bell is whether it is middle C, C flat or C sharp. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is dealing with it.
If the Information Committee knew that this was going out world wide, we ought to write a script on what happened in the House of Lords—the history of it, from Alfred the Great and the others. This could be passed, probably from the BBC, to the lead broadcasters in China, India and right the way around the world.
Information should be fun and interesting. I have certainly enjoyed being on the Information Committee. I have enjoyed the tolerance of the great Martin Casey, who knows more than anybody. We cannot let him go; now I will try hard to use my machine—I will not call it by its name. I am very grateful for having been on this Committee and I would like to thank the chairman.
My Lords, first, if anybody thinks that I am being high-tech using my iPad for my speech, that is partially true. However, I also have a confession to make. When I tried to print it out on paper, the paper stuck in the printer. I was leaving it a little bit late to get here and so, inevitably, I had to do it this way. In fact, I am very largely going to ignore it because of what has already been said.
I thank “my noble friend”—as my noble friend Lord Foulkes called him quite wrongly—Lord Kirkwood. I would still call him “my noble friend” at a personal level even if parliamentary convention does not really follow that route. He is also, of course, a fellow member of the gym.
However, I want to follow the speeches that both he and the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, have made from almost—not from the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, but certainly from the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon—the opposite point of view. He quite rightly has sung the praises of the Library. It is a magnificent place. I do not know many books there are in the Library but they could all be put on about three Kindles, to be read whenever anyone wanted to draw them up.
When I want information, as I showed in the House the other day, I go on Google and request that information. I do not go to the Library; I do not look at a book; I go on Google and find the information that I want. I used it for a very short history lesson. During a debate about the Scotland Bill and the United Kingdom there was an argument as to whether the United Kingdom had been formed with the union of the Crowns or the union of Parliaments. I looked it up and said that it was actually formed in 1800 when Ireland came into it. That was a matter of finding information quickly and easily on Google rather than having to go to the Library and look for a book to find that information.
That is the future. At the moment it is iPads but, before very long, there may well be a chip in the back of your hand through which you can get that same information. That is the way we are going and that is why the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, is absolutely right to say that we have to keep up to date. The same media that will attack us if we spend money on computers or whatever will equally attack us if we appear to be behind the ball game, out of date and no longer keeping up with what the younger people—and not only younger people but even old people like me—are doing in terms of technology.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, that 12 months until wi-fi is simply not good enough. O2 has done a deal with Westminster Council at the present time under which, by putting its routers on what I believe it calls street furniture—lamp posts, fences and so on—it will provide wi-fi access to anybody who has a computer, laptop or mobile phone, whatever it might be, within Westminster Council. It is starting now. Some of it will be available in June and the whole of the council will have access by the beginning of July in time for the Olympic Games. If it can do that, why are we not approaching a company and asking whether we can do the same thing? Why are we not having the same access to wi-fi?
Presumably, as we are in the Westminster Council area, we will be getting access to that wi-fi. It would be slightly peculiar if, for some reason, we were not able to get it. Just like smokers—but not me; I am not a smoker and have not been for 30-odd years—we will have to go out on to the Terrace, carrying our laptop or our tablet, in order to get the access that we require. That would be nonsense. We ought to have wi-fi access throughout the whole system and I will urge at a later date on the committee that we should look at this issue much more quickly. We should have wi-fi access across the whole of the parliamentary estate—preferably within the next three months and before the introduction of the O2 system—and at speeds that are faster than the O2 system. Otherwise there is a danger that people like me will access the O2 system and say, “Oh, it is better than the parliamentary one anyway”. I do not have to sign in for it as there is automatic signing in. Every time I turn my computer on to access it, it will be instantly available. If our system is not as good, that will create security problems because people will be using computers, tablets or whatever which are not in any way related to the security systems within the parliamentary estate. That could have dangers.
I will finish by making a second point about the tablet experiment. Quite rightly, there has been a survey of tablets. It is all very well my noble friend Lord Kirkwood saying that it is the iPad but, as far as I am aware, they did not try out any other tablet. The iPad 3 is now out—it was announced last week and it goes on sale tomorrow—and the iPad 4 may very well come before the end of this year. We have to take a decision: do we or do we not give people the iPad? There is evidence that money will be saved by using the iPad through a reduction in the amount of paper used. People can use their iPads rather than printing out information and using up great piles of paper or getting it stuck in the printer, whatever it may be. The iPad is there; it is coming; we need it. Fellow Members are constantly asking me when a decision will be taken: they are saying, “Do we buy our own or is it going to be provided?”. It may be that the Committee and the House authorities want people to buy their own and they can then say, “We will provide the services”.
It would not be entirely fair if they did that. We may not be employees but this is a place of work and we are here to do a job. I cannot think of any other job where the tools required to do it have to be provided by yourself—where you have to go out and purchase your own hammers, screwdrivers, computers, whatever it may be. I cannot imagine journalists, who probably will attack us if we provide or offer iPads to everyone having to buy their own computers, tablets or laptops. That does not happen.
We ought to take a decision to at least offer a tablet, preferably the iPad—at the moment there is not anything else on the market—to everyone who wishes it, not as a straight extra but as a replacement either for the laptop that people have, if it is due for replacement, or instead of the mobile device that they have. I can use this. I have used this on the last couple of nights and my wife has used it as a phone using Skype. Using Skype and providing Skype services may be another way of saving money.
I hope we will take that decision. I welcome the report and the further meetings of the Committee, where I will again raise these issues.
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to debate the report and to make a few points on it. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, for an excellent introduction, despite the rather rude interruption which tried to take us completely off the point that we were on. In future, if some Peers are going to make speeches in the middle of a debate, perhaps they will have the courtesy to stay until the end and not interrupt people at the start. This is a new tradition which has arisen with people who have come here and seem to think they have the right to do it and not to debate matters in a proper way. This reiterates the point of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, that we are having trouble getting people to understand the conventions of a self-regulating House, where you are not told what to do by a Speaker and you do not have a headmaster any more.
Leaving that point aside for the moment—I shall take it up elsewhere—I found the Information Committee report interesting and hugely encouraging. Like everyone else, I shall start by talking about the tablet trials, which is a wonderful move in the right direction. There are lots of questions about it and we received a bit of flak in the press the other day, which was very unfair. I have found that it has enabled me to work more efficiently and has allowed me to find papers when I have not got them. I remember going to a meeting where we were discussing the Protection of Freedoms Bill and some aspects of RIPA and I had thought we were going to be discussing something slightly different. I turned up with my tablet and everyone else had about a foot of paper in front of them. When I realised what we were discussing, it did not take me long to get the information up on the iPad because I know my way around the parliamentary site—a point I shall take up later—and I was able to find things quicker than the other people were able to by desperately fumbling through their index tabs. In particular, when we went on to a point they did not expect, I was able to search the PDF for a different Bill, to which it referred back, find the information and produce some intelligent comments. With the annotation facilities that we have for the PDFs in GoodReader, I was able to find information more quickly because I had indexed it already when we were debating the Bill. That is hugely valuable and useful and it is there, sitting with me, all the time. So, called into a meeting, I can react immediately. In the case that I mentioned, I think that it rather astonished them. They thought that I would know nothing because, apparently, I had no supporting material, but actually I had an entire library at my fingertips. That is the point, and it is one that has been brought up by other speakers.
The other advantage is the flexibility afforded when speaking, which the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, brought up. He would have printed his speech out and probably have felt constrained to stick to what he had written. He would have discovered that it was no longer as relevant as it was, but instead he was able to adapt it in a sensible and flexible way and produce a very interesting speech—one that, I hate to suggest, was probably more useful than the original speech because that one had been pre-empted. That is a huge advantage. I certainly found myself always modifying my speeches because I was able to use my Writer application.
We have been criticised in the press for handing out laptops, but you have to have a core group of enthusiasts who will test anything that is new. There is an old adage that no plan survives its first encounter with the enemy. Whatever you do to start with is not how you will end up. We could have launched on day one with the idea either that we would loan out tablets for Peers to use or that we would get people to bring their tablets in. Some businesses are doing that, but a lot of large organisations are fighting it quite hard because of security issues; they are finding it much harder than we are to adapt, but they are being forced into it. We have moved proactively, although the point is that if we had gone in that way, the critics would have killed it on day one. You have to run a trial to find out what the disadvantages are. We can see already that access to the website is changing and modifying as a result of some of the reactions to the tablet trial in the Information Committee.
I think that this still has a long way to go. An example is that when I want to look at a Bill I am concerned with, I want all the stuff that is relevant to whatever stage we have reached to be together in one place. I am prepared to pick the Bill up off the desk, but I am only offered the latest version and all the documents. I then have to go in and stab around. What I want are the latest amendments. I also want the note from the Whips’ Office so that I know what order people will be speaking in, although I am quite happy to get that off the other thing because I normally have that sitting there as well. However, it means having to jump backwards and forwards from one bit to the other. It is as if the most important thing is the last stage of the Bill, but it is not. The most important thing is the amendments we are about to discuss. Also, it is a real nuisance having last-minute additions to the Marshalled List, but I do not know how we are going to handle that. It means that you have to have two lists of amendments. However, we may see an improvement in our working practices as a result of all this because in some cases it may make us think more logically.
To make maximum use of this technology, we need training in how to search for and find things. For instance, occasionally I want to find EU papers, which is a particularly thorny problem on whatever device you are using. This is where we need the expertise of our librarians. One of the great things about modern technology is the way librarians have changed from people who just give you books and tell you where to find something into people who are able to gear up their expertise in knowing where to find information, then summarise it and produce a distillation. Library notes and research papers into aspects of things we are looking at are found to be extremely useful by Peers. You can see that in the doubling of the take-up of those notes. It changes someone who used to sit behind a desk into someone who is summarising information usefully so that it then becomes knowledge. It is then up to us to have the wisdom to turn it into something that we will use properly. Things are useless when they are just out there in the form of information.
I have one other brief comment to make about the trial. We are facing what every large organisation has to face, which is the problem of how we are going to handle security in a deperimeretised environment, as it is called. How are we going to have collaboration orientated architectures, as the Jericho Forum calls them? I know that these are technical things, but I thought I would throw them in for fun. These are the things we are facing, and large companies are stumbling over them as well. That is why at the moment we have a separation between the intranet and the internet, which I find so awkward because there is stuff I cannot get on my tablet. It is sitting on the intranet and it is too cumbersome to try to log in on that if you do not have a good connection. So I end up taking what I can get on the internet. There is some stuff which is missing. It is not secret or anything like that, and there are ways around it. I think we need to look at this, and it is something that may usefully come out of the tablet trial. I hope that the internet will survive and the intranet will be something that is accessed, if it is needed, in a very different way. I think there will be secure areas.
I want to say two things very quickly on the report. I was a little concerned by the talk of bespoke systems for core activities. I can see certain aspects of how we handle amendments and things as Bills progress through another place and then here, going backwards and forwards, and that there is a specialised system especially written to handle that. However, for a lot of our systems, we should be careful about going too bespoke, because the world is changing very quickly in a very unpredictable way. Who would have envisaged, even four years ago, that we would be doing a tablet trial here and that I would be permitted to use it in the Chamber or for my notes here in Committee? Who would have envisaged that we would be beginning to work in these flexible ways, or that we would be talking about Members bringing their own stuff in that would hook up inside the parliamentary perimeter? The changes are so fast that we do not know where we will be, and we have got to be very careful of locking ourselves into expensive, upfront capital expenditure when the world may move in a different direction.
To take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, again, is it an iPad or not? We are quite right to say tablet. It just happened that the iPad had the easiest interface, earliest on, off the starting block in this area. Actually, there are very serious rivals now and some that are outselling the iPad. There are some other more generic operating systems that could give us better access to some of the other facilities one would like to have on the internet. The iPad for various commercial reasons will not run Flash, but an Android-based system will. There are all sorts of bits and pieces like that, so we should very firmly say tablet, but of course it does not matter. If we go to a system which is device agnostic—as the chairman of our committee said—it removes that problem. People can have whatever they fancy and like and want to use. That is definitely the way to go, and it also offloads a huge amount of capital expenditure.
There are two other things I wanted to mention very quickly, because we have spent so long on computers. What we are doing on the outreach area and the Peers in Schools programme is very laudable. I think that move is hugely useful to public perception of what we get up to, what Parliament gets up to and what the two arms of Government—the legislature and the executive—do, with all the issues behind it that people do not understand. I am very encouraged to see that that is expanding. I have spoken in a couple of places, but not as part of the service. I think quite a few of us do, but it is right that we should formalise it and make it easier, and that is a very good move in the right direction.
The other thing that I am very grateful for is the Press Office. I have not had to use it, but I find it hugely reassuring that when there is something that hits the press that you are worried about, and you think, “Oh my goodness, what am I going to say?”, you have the Press Office there to act as back up. If it is a bit oversensitive, instead of putting your foot in it you can hand it over to the Press Office, which can put its foot in it instead. I am sorry, I mean that it can do exactly the right thing instead. These are very important aspects, which we should not lose sight of in our excitement about the new technology.
It is a very interesting and useful report, and I look forward to working with the committee as long as I am allowed to.
My Lords, I, too, thank our chairman for organising this rather pleasantly informal debate. We have members of the staff here, we have a clerk, and we even have a member of the Government to see that we behave ourselves.
Until they actually serve on the committee, people do not realise the huge amount of work and the huge range of activity which is done by the information staff. As we come into contact with them, we know about PICT and the Library because they are there, but we are much less aware of the information services to the general public—the outreach, the work done with House of Commons education, the website, the intranet, broadcasting and generally telling the world who we are and what we do. Who knows that the House of Lords staff also take care of the parliamentary archives? Do not, of course, forget Hansard. Therefore, I start, together with the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, by thanking the staff and congratulating them on all their hard work, dedication and thoughtfulness. Like the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, I think the committee should find some way of better informing parliamentarians of all this hard work and dedication. An awful lot of us just take it for granted.
Where should I start on this huge range of activities? I start by responding briefly to a question about ICT. This is a very difficult time to provide an ICT service because the technology and hardware are changing so quickly. No sooner had we learnt to operate our PCs than mobile systems started to take over. Then the tablet came along and now we may well be moving into an age of connected TV—who knows? It takes time for people to understand the systems and to move easily between static and mobile formats. That is why I am in favour of Peers providing their own equipment. I do not agree with my noble friend. It is partly because people would be more economical with their own stuff and partly because Peers are at different stages of development.
Some of us still use books for knowledge, as the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, said. For instance, I find it difficult to work on an iPad. I like to write little notes to myself in the margins of a document that I am working on because my memory is so awful. In a debate such as this, I could write a little note in the margin to refer to something that another Peer has said. I find this very awkward when using an iPad. It might be a little more difficult for the support staff but it would make the service more personal and individual if we supplied our own equipment. Providing our own equipment would also help to achieve the objective of increasing Members’ effectiveness in their own work. This does not mean that we should not be at the forefront of technology, as the noble Lord, Lord Maxton, said, but we have to do it at our own pace. That is why I was not in favour of trying iPads. They should certainly be provided for staff, but I saw enough of them being used by Peers in the Library and elsewhere in Parliament to conduct a worthwhile trial. I also felt that it was wrong to limit ourselves to Apple software—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood. Now I read that we have Windows 7, with which we are all familiar, for the tablet in a very quick and easy form, with an app that does everything for you. I am sure that in time this will become very popular.
Another reason why it is right to concentrate on ICT is that it is a means of two-way communication—the feedback about which the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, spoke. It is a means of strengthening relationships, which is what the Information Committee is all about. This should be done not only through social media—I am not suggesting that we reward people who become friends—but through individual websites as well as the parliamentary website. Last week the Labour Lords website went live; my noble friend starred on it. It provides exactly the kind of two-way relationship that the Information Committee should support.
Lords of the Blog is another example. It has now been going for three years and the page views are rapidly increasing because Peers raise issues there that they cannot raise on the Floor of the House due to overcrowding. As long as the House is overcrowded, Peers will find other ways to monitor and scrutinise the Government by using ICT. This also applies to tweeting.
Reaching out to the public in person is perhaps even more important. The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, referred to this. As our report says, some 180 Members go to schools, colleges and other institutions to explain who we are and what we do. I would like to put on record my thanks to Gina Page and her colleagues in the Lords Speaker’s Office, and those in the Information Office, who put all of this together and actually organise more than 500 visits.
I have participated in this scheme since it started five years ago. What is appreciated is not so much telling people how Parliament works, but for people to have the opportunity to question a real, live, breathing, genuine Member of the House of Lords. I keep the explanations short when I go, and devote most of the time to a question and answer session. Indeed, this leads to some fascinating and informative discussions.
Of course, you are always asked how you became a Peer. You are always asked what you do. You are asked how much you get paid and what you did before you entered the House, and some of the questions are based on information gleaned from websites such as theyworkforyou.com. But many of the questions are unexpected. For instance, in November I was asked, if Jesus was alive today, would he become a Member of the House of Lords, and if so, on which Benches would he sit? This led to about 15 minutes of discussion and we came to the conclusion that yes, he would become a Member of the House of Lords, but no, he would not sit on the Bishops’ Benches; he would have become a Peer through the public applications system, and would sit on the Cross Benches as a champion of human rights.
Incidentally, to my knowledge we have never had a debriefing session for the staff and Peers doing this outreach, and I think this is something that the committee might arrange. For instance, before I visit a school or institution I always read the Information Office daily press report, because then I know what the audience has been reading. I wonder how many Peers know that this is available.
Of course, another part of the outreach with a human touch is the welcome given to visitors. The parliamentary guides are warm, they are smiling, they are informative and helpful, and they certainly form an important part of the human outreach. This is in addition to all the visitors that the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, told us about.
One part of the organisation that seems to bring a lot of these things together is the Library. Not only have the staff dealt with a huge increase in reference and research inquiries—not everybody uses their iPad—but they also provide briefing packs for debates. They provide online services and, helpfully, training on how to use them. There are computers for occasional use and services are available both here and at Millbank. As I said earlier, Peers look to the Library for help because it is local, in the same way that we look to PICT for help at short notice, which is another excellent service that we should applaud.
The report speaks about developing Members’ biographical pages. May I make one request? These biographies tend to say a lot about what Members take out of the pot—for instance, what the posts are that they hold outside Parliament—but very little about what they put back in. In all my years I have never met a Peer who does not do some kind of voluntary work in charity, sport, the arts, education, medicine—the list is endless. But rarely are people told about it. Both should have equal prominence in these biographies that we are working on.
There are lots of areas I have not covered, such as the archives, which is the place that many visitors tell me they remember the best. I could go on, but I must close. Has all this outreach been effective and worthwhile? I am not aware of any polling to find out, but my impression is that it is. People I meet are certainly much more aware of who we are, what we do and why we do it. If there is a reform Bill in the Queen’s Speech, this will be debated by an informed public, which will be far better informed today than it was five years ago, thanks to the work of the Information Committee. I also think that this work has made an important contribution to rebuilding our reputation and status with the public after the debacle of the expenses scandal—something that was desperately needed.
Internally, we work better, more efficiently and more effectively through the use of ICT, and this will only get better. Incidentally, streaming and broadcasting has made us more conscious of our behaviour and, speaking for myself, encouraged us to prepare better for meetings and debates. Once again, my thanks and congratulations go to all the information staff, to our Chair, our Clerks and my colleagues on the Committee. Our work is showing results.
My Lords, could I take up one minute of the Committee’s time to pursue a point just raised by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel and the noble Earl, Lord Erroll? It is about the use of equipment off the premises of the Palace of Westminster that is chosen by the Members themselves. That also featured in my noble friend’s introduction. I was quite excited by this, because the present system of allocating fixed hardware to people who then use it off the premises is unduly restrictive and can have serious disadvantages. I will mention one instance. I have a network at home and I was told that the Parliamentary ICT system could not supply me with broadband because of the danger that might arise from misuse by some of the other people on the network. It would happily look after one computer connected to broadband, which it would pay for, but if I were to connect one or several more computers to my network, that meant that it would not pay at all.
This would resolve the dilemma over iPads, which has been mentioned several times. I agree with the noble Lord that nowadays there are competitors to the iPad that, if not superior, are at least equal to it, and which Members might use if they had the freedom to choose. One can see the point of having specified equipment used in the offices in the House because the ICT people have to look after it. The desktop and printer on desks here in the Palace of Westminster should be specified, but as soon as you get outside and need a mobile, tablet or connection to the internet, Members should have a budget and be able to do exactly what they like with it instead of having to stick to equipment from a specified list provided by the IT department. I am glad to hear that the committee is heading in that direction.
My Lords, I am grateful to all the Members who have taken part. Apart from my noble friend Lord Avebury, we have kept this within the family. There is no harm in that, and I draw a conclusion from the fact that we have not had the Grand Committee packed with people complaining about various services that have gone wrong. That is a positive. The opportunity is there and it is important to provide that opportunity, and the fact that we have what is, in effect, another of our useful seminars among colleagues who were thinking freely and without being tied to an agenda has been valuable. Some important points have been made. The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, made an important point about in-reach, not outreach. There is no substitute for visits into the Parliamentary Estate, particularly for young people. In-reach is important as well as outreach, and I also agree with him that information should be fun. The committee’s work is lots of things; it is sometimes fun, sometimes it is hard work, but it is important work, and we need to bear that in mind.
I just want to take up a point from the noble Lord, Lord Maxton. He is right to be impatient for change for wi-fi roll-out, but there are practical difficulties about the public contract, which has to go through European procurement rules. That is what is actually holding the thing back; there is a cost, but there are some procurement rules which we cannot avoid. We will know soon who the contractor will be, but then there is a lot of bureaucracy to go through; it is all European-compliant legislation of which we have to be very careful to take account. The earliest we can possibly do it is March 2013, but he will know—because he keeps up with these things—that there is an advantage to that, because the standards for wi-fi provision are being upgraded and we will be able to take advantage of that. If we had done it earlier, we would have been with wi-fi one; we will actually be going into a situation with wi-fi two, as it were, so there is an advantage in hastening slowly, at least to that extent. However, I am grateful to him and I hope he will continue to challenge robustly the speed of the provision.
We have been in danger of anticipating the outcome of the committee’s deliberation on the evaluation of the tablet trials. I do not want to do that, as it is still a very open question, and we have to go through this process very carefully. I am grateful to all my colleagues who commented, including the well informed overview that the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, gave of the trial. He has vast experience in this are, which is valuable to the committee, and I take his point about generic systems. But the generic systems will be in the customisation of the applications for each individual Member, so the customisation that would be required for him will be at a much higher grade than for ordinary users. It is more customisation of generic systems that we have in mind.
My Lords, this is of course the advantage of having an iPad which is indexed immediately with my comments, which one can do in a PDF. The document is actually talking about a use of bespoke solutions for Parliament’s unique core systems, in paragraph 12 on page 7. That was the one that worried me. I entirely agree with the noble Lord about customisation for individuals at the front end; it is a very good idea.
I thank the noble Earl. We are not far apart on this now. I am grateful to him for his other comments as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, was very kind to the House staff. We all feel that too; I think Member-led outreaches are invaluable and difficult to improve upon. I hope the debate has provided the House more generally, in Grand Committee context, with an overview of what we are doing and that we as a committee will decide to have another annual report, because they are good for the committee. They make you always look back at what you have done and give you a better idea of what you want to do in future. We are facing a challenging two or three-year period in the run-up to 2015. The committee is very vigorous and knowledgeable about this. I enjoy participating in it and am grateful to colleagues for the energy they put into the committee, which is in the service of the House and for the benefit of the House. There is a lot of work to do, and I hope it will continue to be fun. On that basis—because the Grand Committee has a lot of important work to do for the rest of the afternoon—I have pleasure in moving that the committee’s annual report for 2010-11 be noted by the Grand Committee.
Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 2012
Considered in Grand Committee
That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers’ Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
Relevant document: 41st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend, Lord Freud, I will also speak to the draft Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
It is a requirement that I confirm to the Committee that these provisions are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and I am happy to do so. The purpose of these two regulations is to increase the amounts of lump sum compensation paid under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979, and the 2008 mesothelioma scheme set up by the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008. The increased amounts will be paid to those who first satisfy the conditions of entitlement on or after 1 April 2012.
The earlier drafts of these regulations contained an error in one of the rates in the dependant tables. Had the error not been corrected, it would have meant that certain dependants could have received more than a sufferer in a very small number of cases. That cannot be right and so action was taken immediately the error was identified to withdraw the earlier regulations and correct that error.
Both schemes stand apart from the main social security benefits uprating procedure and there is no legislative requirement to make annual increases in the amounts payable under these two schemes. However, in recent years, increases to the amounts paid have been made in line with the rate of inflation, and the amounts payable for 2012 are being increased by the same rate that is being applied to social security benefits —that is, uprated by CPI—of 5.2 per cent.
Both schemes fulfil an important role in providing compensation where no civil action can be taken against an employer, the person responsible for the exposure to asbestos or one of the other listed agents. They also ensure that sufferers receive compensation while they can still benefit from it.
Noble Lords will know that improved health and safety procedures—
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Noble Lords will know that improved health and safety procedures have now both restricted the use of asbestos and provided a safer environment for its handling. However, we are all aware of the legacy created by the common use of asbestos before its effects on people’s health were fully understood. The Government are confronting the results of that common practice by ensuring that financial compensation is available to those affected. Indeed, that is why both of these schemes were introduced.
It might help noble Lords if I briefly summarised the specific purpose of each scheme. The Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers Compensation) Act 1979, which for simplicity of pronunciation I shall abbreviate to the “1979 Act”, provides a lump sum compensation payment to those who suffer from one of the five dust-related respiratory diseases covered by the scheme and who are unable to claim damages from employers after they have gone out of business. In outline, the diseases covered are diffuse mesothelioma, bilateral diffuse pleural thickening, pneumoconiosis, byssinosis and primary carcinoma of the lung, if accompanied by asbestosis or bilateral diffuse pleural thickening. A claim can be made by a dependant if the sufferer has died before being able to make a claim.
A person who is injured or contracts an industrial disease as a result of their work may sue the employer for damages. However, the diseases covered by the 1979 Act are known as long-latency diseases as they take a long time to develop and may not be diagnosed for a very long time after exposure to the dust that caused the illness. This is particularly so for the asbestos-related diseases within the scheme, such as primary carcinoma of the lung or mesothelioma. In some cases, it may take up to 40 years between the original exposure and the linked disease. Given that length of time, noble Lords will not find it surprising that by the time diagnosis is made, the employer responsible may no longer exist. As a result, sufferers and their dependants can find it very difficult to undertake a successful civil action to obtain compensation and the 1979 Act was introduced to help such people.
The mesothelioma lump sum payments scheme was introduced under the last Government in 2008 to provide compensation to people who contracted mesothelioma but were unable to claim compensation under the 1979 Act because their exposure to asbestos was not due to their work or because the asbestos exposure was simply unidentified. Noble Lords may recall the case of the unfortunate woman who contracted mesothelioma from washing her husband’s work clothes. The 2008 scheme means that payments can be made urgently to mesothelioma sufferers at their time of greatest need. If a sufferer dies before making a claim, a 2008 scheme payment can be made to a dependent.
The annual incidence of mesothelioma continues to increase. There are currently over 2,300 deaths from the disease in men and women each year. When other asbestos-related deaths—mainly lung cancer and asbestosis—are added, it is likely that there are now over 4,000 asbestos-related deaths in total each year. While it is always difficult to forecast exact peaks, the latest available information suggests that mesothelioma deaths in men will continue to increase to a peak of around 2,100 deaths in 2016. It is more difficult to predict when deaths in women will peak but it is likely that this will occur after the peak in men, albeit at a lower level.
Payment levels under the 1979 Act scheme are based on the level of the disablement assessment and the age of the sufferer at the time that the disease is diagnosed. The highest amounts are paid to those who have been diagnosed at an early age and with the highest level of disablement. Under the 2008 scheme, as well as under the 1979 Act, all mesothelioma disablement assessments are made at the 100 per cent rate. This means that for someone suffering from mesothelioma the amount of payment under both schemes will vary only according to the age of the person at the time of diagnosis.
Over 50 per cent of claims under the 1979 Act are made in respect of mesothelioma, a particularly unpleasant and fatal disease, caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. Those diagnosed with mesothelioma usually have a short life expectancy, generally between 12 and 18 months. It is common that the sufferer is severely disabled very soon after diagnosis. I am sure we all agree that no amount of money can ever compensate sufferers or their families for the damage caused by these diseases, but it is right that they receive financial compensation, and as quickly as possible. These regulations help ensure that the level of government compensation provided by both schemes maintains its value. I commend the increase of the payment scales to noble Lords and ask approval to implement them.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his careful explanation of these two orders. There are one or two questions that I would like to put to him. First, he says that there is no statutory obligation to continue uprating these payments at the level that they have been in the past. I wonder what guarantee there is that, in the future, the percentage upratings that we are looking at now will continue to be maintained. If there is not any statutory obligation, how can the victims of these awful diseases come to the expectation that they will not be left in the lurch if there is some financial emergency and that, as with many other poor and vulnerable people, they will not be made to contribute some of the miserable pittance that they are awarded towards the repayment of the deficit that we all know is constantly in the Government’s mind?
My noble friend pointed to the legacy of these frightful diseases, which may continue to emerge for 40 years after the sufferer has first been in contact with the substance concerned, whether it be industrial dust or, in the case of mesothelioma, asbestos. Have the Government formed any estimate of the total cost of dealing with these diseases in terms of the compensation that will become available over the long tail that we expect to develop in the future? I was pleased to note from his speech that this peak will be reached for men in 2016, and for women a little bit later, but we know that thereafter sufferers will continue to emerge and some 60,000 of them are expected to be discovered at some point in the future.
My noble friend Lord Alton had hoped to have taken part in this debate but he had to leave for another meeting. He asked me to put to my noble friend that on 29 February our noble friend Lord McNally, answering a Question, said that:
“The Department for Work and Pensions has undertaken various initiatives to make it easier for claimants to trace their employers’ insurers. Discussions are being held with stakeholders to determine what more can be done for sufferers”.—[Official Report, 29/2/12; col. 1294.]
I appreciate that this is not directly concerned with the two orders but I would be grateful if my noble friend could elaborate on that and give the Grand Committee more information about what the Government now think can be done for sufferers and, in particular, how it can be made easier for them to trace their employers’ insurers.
As my noble friend has explained, under the 2008 scheme for victims of mesothelioma, compensation is payable to any person who contracts this disease without the need to establish a connection with any particular employer, or indeed any history of employment, as in the case he mentioned of the wife who contracted the disease through washing her husband’s overalls. This applies to anybody, whether or not they worked in an asbestos-related environment.
However, in the case of pneumoconiosis or silicosis, there is no compensation payable for the self-employed; for example, those who worked in the construction industry, where self-employment was very common in previous years. Perhaps my noble friend could say what it would cost to extend those same provisions to the victims of pneumoconiosis and silicosis so that they would be able to claim whether or not they could satisfy the Government that their disease was employment-related. I would be most grateful if my noble friend could deal with those questions.
My Lords, I will briefly intervene in this debate. I am thinking back to 1979, when the original legislation went through, and the number of different groups of workers, including slate quarrymen from my own constituency, who were failing to get compensation through action against ex-employers for the reason that, as the Minister mentioned, many of them had gone out of existence and there needed to be some safety net.
In a recent Question on the Floor of the House, I raised the issue of people who are suffering from diseases similar to pneumoconiosis that are endemic in slate quarrying, such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which have been recognised as an industrial disease associated with pneumoconiosis for coal miners but not for slate quarrymen. I realise that the diseases defined by the 1979 Act are five and that they are specific, but the ones additional to pneumoconiosis were brought in because they were associated with and arising from the work that was undertaken. I would be very grateful if this issue could be pursued further because, although I have had a reply from the noble Lord, Lord Freud, who gave the reason that I have outlined, the trade unions involved still feel that there is a group of workers, albeit a very small one, which is missing out by the way in which these matters are being interpreted.
I touch on the mesothelioma dimension. As the 2008 scheme tries to gain compensation recovery following the payments out, it would be interesting to know what the Government’s line is with regard to the possibility of the legal aid legislation that is going through now having a direct and negative effect on this. The numbers of people that we are talking about are some 2,000, 3,000 or perhaps even 4,000 a year, and over the next 30 years some 40,000 people may have claims. So it is very important that there is some transparency in this and, therefore, I hope that the Minister will be in a position to give some indication of the thinking on that matter.
I support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. I thank the Minister for his patient and dignified introduction and acknowledge the work of my noble friend on the Front Bench, who had a splendid record of caring about these matters when for a number of years he was a Minister. I know that he was well served by his Civil Service team, some of whom are present today.
These regulations have their origins in the social, economic, industrial and political history of Britain, and they are of very specific interest to the people of Wales. I do not think that we can ever let these regulations just go through, although one wholeheartedly supports the proposals promulgated today by the Minister. We should acknowledge what the regulations reflect; much of our industrial and economic history, and the consequences of that history, is considerable. My noble friend Lady Golding is present in this Committee, and I draw attention if I may to the biography of her distinguished father, who was a miner and government Minister as well as a man of south Wales of huge stature. In his biography there is a great deal of detail, which presages what the Minister proposes and which we most happily accept. My noble friend knows in great detail the south Wales coal-field—what is left of it—what it meant and what happened there.
From my own experience in north Wales, as late as 1970 there were 12 collieries, which disappeared very quickly. But there was a considerable mining industry in much of Wales, north, south and in the west as well as the east. We should never forget the contributions made by the coal industry to prosperity and provision generally for the majority of the people in the nation.
The estate where I grew up was on a levelled-out coal tip, and such ragamuffins as lived on that estate would go out to play in the fields and, perhaps once a year, find a new shaft that related to the old mines. To find out how deep the shaft was you would heave a brick in it and count how many seconds before the splash. That is the culture, background and origin of the regulations, and the mother of Parliaments should never forget whence they came. And so it is relevant for Members to come to your Lordships’ committee and make a few points. With regard to the quarrymen—and I was glad to hear the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley—I would like to mention particularly some names, because these regulations have their beginnings in the work of Lord Cledwyn Hughes, Lord Harold Walker, Sir Elwyn Jones, who lived in Anglesey, and Mr Tom Jones, who was a Transport and General Workers’ Union official, and is still about. Also, the then Welsh Office in the late 1970s was heavily involved in bringing about an introduction of some redress for quarrymen. It is the case that the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and his compatriot, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, were also involved.
The Government of the day was led by James Callaghan. I had the honour to serve in it, and having mentioned some distinguished names with regard to measures for the quarrymen, I had a small part in the origins of help for the quarrymen. In so far as I have mentioned names, there is parliamentary history of a kind, rooted in a culture and an industry in Wales.
May I say to the Minister—because he is more than a good sport—that if he was not too busy one weekend or one day, he might visit a quarry in north-west Wales, in Blaenau Ffestiniog, called Llechwedd? It is currently a museum of a kind, but if a Minister, or a noble Lord, or a noble Baroness, were to step into Llechwedd, and just listen and feel in the dark and the damp again, they would be struck about the need for these regulations. That particular quarry required the poor workman to bring his own candles to illuminate his slaving away. In that quarry you see how the prospect of injury was ever present.
Again, as a witness to the very warp and woof of what the regulations refer to, it is a very powerful reflection of what was ordinary work for thousands of people not that long ago. To give further verisimilitude to what I propose is the fact that there was a strike in the mid-1980s. I had the duty—perhaps honour—to address those 50 to 55 men in this industrial dispute. It was winter time and there was snow on the ground. It was in Blaenau Ffestiniog, which is a windswept, rainy place, of great beauty when the sun shines, but it needs the sun. Here I saw the end, almost, of a great industry. The industry at its height sent its product all over the world, and many of London’s roofs are covered with slate from the north Wales quarries.
We need to consider the humanity here. The last dying kick, perhaps, was that strike; the industry now is small but specialised—it is expert, and it is managing.
With regard to asbestosis, Lord Walker—Harold Walker—who was in your Lordships’ House for some years, was Minister of State in the Department of Employment. He drew me aside, knowing my interest in working for the quarrymen, and told me of the tragedy at Hebden Bridge. Harold Walker, as he then was in the Commons, had been a craftsman in a previous life. These poor workers—this is a health and safety point—made snowballs of this terrifying blue asbestos. It was not known about—that is what they did. It was quite right of the Minister to indicate the various lists and to make his own personal statement of some dignity and caring. When these regulations come forward year by year, I do not think that we should just receive them. We should acknowledge what they truly mean.
We owe so much to the miners and the quarrymen, and as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, suggested, we need to do all we can to help out those few who are still missing out. I thank the Minister for his remarks.
I speak as somebody who lost a stepfather and a sister-in-law to these diseases, but mainly I speak because I produced a report on fatalities in the construction industry for the previous Government. Although my remit was to look closely at fatalities on site, I also saw the figures for disease and the figures that the noble Lord mentioned. At that stage, I think there were something like 4,500 deaths a year from lung-related diseases. This is a silent killer of the most horrendous proportions. The noble Lord indicated the lack of future for so many.
My concern is that the profile should be higher. What work is the Health and Safety Executive doing to improve that profile? Is any more research being done? I know that technically I am probably out of order on these regulations but, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, this is extremely important. Silicosis is going to come up further down the track. Every worker you see in London carving up the corner of a pavement and not using a water spray or wearing a mask over his face may well be dead in 15 years’ time. It does not take as long—it does not take 40 years. We could do an awful lot more. I know that these regulations are about people who have already contracted these fatal diseases, but we should try to raise their profile and to do more to prevent them because some of these killers are still there. It not a question of them peaking in 2016. Some other industrial diseases are coming along, and I do not believe that sufficient work is being done on them.
I have a question, and I understand if the Minister does not have the answer immediately. Could some inquiries be made about what work is being done by the Health and Safety Executive and about what can be done to improve these diseases’ profile and their prevention?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley. I know he has stepped into the breach at fairly short notice because the noble Lord, Lord Freud, is unwell. We send our best wishes to him. I thank noble Lords who have contributed, particularly my noble friend Lord Jones. He is absolutely right; we should not see these orders each year just as a technical uprating. They are a chance to reflect on their history and what they mean. My noble friend, together with the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, were, in my noble friend’s terms, participants in and witnesses to what went on in those communities. People of my generation, brought up in the relative safety of the south-east, only read about it and listened to it. It is a good opportunity to remind ourselves what we owe to those mining and quarrying communities.
As the Minister said, there is no statutory obligation to uprate these compensation amounts so I would say that a CPI uprating—so far as it goes—is welcome. Had the noble Lord, Lord Freud, been in post, we might have engendered a bit of a debate about the difference between RPI and CPI and which is the more robust statistic. I will, however, forgo that on this occasion. I am sure that the Minister will be grateful for that. We aligned the payments under the 2008 Act with the 1979 Act a couple of years ago; they were not aligned when they were introduced. That was one aspiration. There was another aspiration to narrow the gap between the amounts due to claimants and the amounts due to dependants. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell us whether that is still an aspiration of the Government.
As we have heard, the concept is that the 2008 scheme was to be funded out of compensation recoveries—compensation from civil cases. Therefore, can we have an update on the levels of recovery; what percentage of 2008 scheme payments are covered by this; and what the estimate over the CSR period is? I follow the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the question that he posed on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Alton—and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley—about how this works with changes that have been made to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. My understanding—I have not followed the intricacies of that Bill in great detail—is that there are government concerns about conditional fee arrangements being exploited, and that 25 per cent of success fees will, in future, be met out of the compensation payments. I think that is the proposition.
Therefore, my question to the Minister is: what will be the impact on the compensation recovery arrangements that help to fund the 2008 scheme if there will be that reduction in compensation recoveries? Presumably that will impact, at some stage, on the levels of compensation that will be due under the 2008 scheme. Indeed, it depends on the relationship between the overall compensation in individual cases and the level of compensation under the 2008 Act scheme, but it adds a challenge for the Government. Why should they go down that path in these circumstances as, in a sense, they risk taking the hit on these deductions themselves? I should be grateful if the Minister would give us a read across to what is happening in that legislation and what it means for compensation levels going forward.
I hope that the Minister gave us the projected numbers and what was going to happen in the upcoming years. We have discussed progress on the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office—the ELTO—before, which I think was, again, the point being pursued by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. We know that the noble Lord, Lord Freud, has previously, expressly taken a direct interest in that. The FSA consultation proposes that the ELTO cover all employer liability policies—entered into, renewed or for which claims were made—on or after 1 November 1999. However, the FSA policy statement requires only the recording of new policies— I think from April 2012. Therefore, what is the progress on back-filling the pursuit of those policies to 1999? Clearly, people’s ability to trace those policies is particularly important. We know the challenges posed, as the Minister and others have expressed, by long latency of the conditions with which we are faced.
I also ask the Minister whether any progress has been made on ELI, which will be the insurance bureau of last resort—a parallel to the Motor Insurance Bureau—so that when policies could not be traced there would be a collective compensation pot. There was a consultation document on that in, I think, the first quarter of 2010. I sought an update on progress before and would be grateful if the Minister could let us know the current position.
My noble friend Lady Donaghy talked in particular about her work in looking at the construction sector, and the importance of and the debt we owe to the Health and Safety Executive. We are at the moment in a rather ironic situation where the Government are consulting on asbestos regulations because the Commission has challenged the status quo about whether that was an effective translation of what it required. We have a Government now, thankfully I think, supporting the previous Government’s position on this. We usually hear that the EU is all about gold-plating and the UK Government follows suit.
I also take the opportunity to ask about the HSE’s resources. In particular what is happening on the proposed charging regime for the field operations directive, which was an integral part of its funding arrangements for the current CSR period? We are, as I say, indebted to the HSE for the tremendous work it does. My noble friend Lord Jones made the point that 20 years ago people did not realise that asbestos was dangerous. They played with it. It was a source of amusement. The research, work and preventive stuff that the HSE does is a route to making sure that history does not repeat itself, although we are still living, as are those tens of thousands of people the noble Lord referred to, with the challenges of the past.
Finally, given that these orders are all about the risks that workers and their families take, and the terrible suffering that comes from these conditions, can I just put it in the context of what is now International Workers’ Memorial Day? It was officially recognised a couple of years ago but has been marked in one way or another for many years. Can the Minister give us an update on what the Government are proposing to do to mark and acknowledge that day? Perhaps in closing I can remind him of the slogan that goes with that:
“Remember the dead and fight for the living”.
Perhaps I can start by thanking all noble Lords who have participated in this brief debate for the sensitive way in which they have done it. As we have discussed, we are talking about some very terrible diseases and these things need to be approached in this way.
A large number of questions have been asked. Let me see how many of them I can tackle now. If I cannot, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I write afterwards. My noble friend Lord Avebury pointed out that there was no statutory obligation to maintain the level of payments and asked what the Government’s position was. I think the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, also referred to that. The Government have no plans to make any changes to these two schemes. We review them regularly to ensure they remain well targeted and we will continue to consider uprating as appropriate.
My noble friend asked what is being done to support people who need to trace employers’ liability insurance. I appreciate that the Government’s response to the consultation is taking longer to publish than many had hoped. However, the issues raised are complex and we remain in active discussions with all the stakeholders to make sure we get this right. We are still carefully considering all the issues and we will bring forward our proposals in due course.
My noble friend asked whether there was a long-term estimate of the cost over what he described as the “long tail”. We have not estimated the cost to the Government of these two schemes over the long tail. If I can find anything out from my noble friend, I will write to him, but I am not aware that we have made estimates. He asked about the possibility of extending the 1979 Act where diseases cannot be traced back to employers. I have to inform the Committee that there are no plans to extend the coverage of the 1979 Act to those whose disease was not covered by their employment. The 2008 scheme covers those people who contracted mesothelioma outside work, but mesothelioma is a special case because of the very short life expectancy of sufferers.
My noble friend referred to what can be done to make it easier to trace insurers specifically. The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, referred to that as well. The Employers’ Liability Tracing Office has replaced the previous, voluntary, employers’ liability code of practice tracing service, which was in place from 1999 and helped around 20,000 claimants to trace their employers’ liability insurer to pursue a claim. The ELTO service has been introduced by the insurance industry to make it easier to search for employers’ liability policies using a central database containing all new and renewed employers’ liability insurance policies from April 2011, policies from before that date that have new claims made against them, and policies that were identified through the previous tracing service.
The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, asked whether the schemes should be enlarged to encompass diseases not covered by the 1979 scheme. We will listen to any evidence and views about other diseases and jobs that interested parties think should be covered by the 1979 scheme.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked about the position on addressing the difference between the sufferers’ and dependants’ rates. The Government think it is right that available resources are targeted principally on sufferers of the disease. However, the Government also recognise the plight of dependants and that suffering is not limited only to first-hand sufferers. Two years ago, dependants’ amounts were increased by up to £5,000, which meant that for some dependants there is now no difference between the amounts paid. We continue to review these schemes regularly to ensure that they remain well targeted.
Could I ask the noble Lord a question put to him earlier? As he knows, there is still a large gap between the payments to living victims of mesothelioma and those made to their estates after they have died. For example, the payment to a sufferer aged 67 is £17,416, while the payment to his dependants if he dies at that age is only £7,915. There is still an enormous gap between these two figures. There was a commitment by the previous Government to reduce and, over a period, to eliminate this differential. Could my noble friend say whether it is the Government’s policy to continue with that diminution of the gap and, if so, whether there is any date by which they hope the process will be completed?
My Lords, as I have made clear, there is an issue about the availability of resources. We think it is very important that they are targeted principally on sufferers of the disease, but we recognise the plight of dependants. That is why, under the previous Government, dependants’ amounts were increased by up to £5,000. If I can add to that from my notes I will do so, but I will possibly do so in writing, if I may.
When I came to the points of the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, I meant to thank him for his good wishes to my noble friend Lord Freud. I will send on his message. Closely allied to that is my thanks to him for letting me off the hook on a debate about CPI and RPI.
He also asked about progress on the employers’ liability insurance bureau. We understand the urgency of the situation. After all avenues have been exhausted, injured people are still unable to find an insurer to claim against. We are continuing to work hard to see what can be done for them, but I am not in a position to go further than that today.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked about compensation recoveries forecast over the CSR period. We estimate compensation recoveries for 2012-13 as being in the region of £21.8 million. That is for both schemes. I will write with further information if I can find it.
Can the noble Lord tell me what the total estimated projected cost for the 2008 compensation scheme is for the same year? I am just trying to identify the gap between recoveries and the amount.
I may be able to come to that in a moment. The noble Lord asked about the HSE charging regime. Unfortunately, I am not able to answer him now but I will write with that information. He asked about our plans for Workers’ Memorial Day. Ministers are considering what official action would be appropriate for 2012. However, the focus of the day, as I understand has always been the case, should be on local events organised by individuals and organisations to commemorate those who have died, been injured or made ill through their work.
If the Minister could make a positive statement that the memorial day is a good day, that would help enormously. When I was the Member of Parliament for West Dunbartonshire, we had that event for four or five years. It is important that a message on that goes out from the Government. Also, given the Scottish experience, will the Minister consider what has happened in the Scottish Parliament regarding relatives so that the sufferers do not have the iniquitous choice of having to take their case through court or die before their relatives can get compensation? Further, can the Minister ensure that the court cases are speeded up? There was a huge problem in Scotland until the Lord President acceded to the request to have a designated judge for these cases who would become familiar with the procedures and speed them through the courts, thereby having a more humane way of compensating for this terrible disease.
I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. I agree with him and I should like it to go on the record that I think it is a good thing that such a day is marked in an appropriate way. As regards his comments about what is going on in Scotland, perhaps I may take them back to the department. That is a helpful suggestion and I thank him for it.
The noble Lords, Lord McKenzie and Lord Wigley, referred to the legal aid Bill and a perceived conflict between the two situations. General damages for things such as pain, suffering and loss of amenity will be increased by 10 per cent. The success fee that the lawyer can charge will be capped at 25 per cent of the claimant’s damages, excluding any damages referable to future care or future losses. This will help to protect the claimant’s damages, as well as any recoveries that the Government might make. Further to that, abolishing the recoverability of success fees and “after the event” insurance premium is the most important element of the reform package for civil litigation and represents a fundamental change to conditional fee agreements. This change will mean that claimants have an interest in the costs being incurred on their behalf, and it will introduce proportion and fairness to the current conditional fee arrangement regime. I appreciate that this is a sensitive area and we will be considering its effect.
I am sorry to press the noble Lord but this is something which is quite current given that there is going to be a debate tomorrow on the Bill. Have I correctly understood what the noble Lord has said? Do the Government recognise that these proposals mean that the compensation of recoveries is going to be reduced by the effect of these fees, or are the fees otherwise going to have to be met out of the 2008 compensation?
I shall have to get back to the noble Lord on that. I appreciate that we are on a rather tight timetable and will do what I can. He asked about the cost of both schemes for next year and I can give him a figure of £53.1 million.
Perhaps the noble Lord will split that for me between the two schemes.
It is distinctly possible but I am not sure that I can do it now. The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, asked what can be done to improve the public profile of these diseases and she made an important point. Building on the success of the hidden killer campaign, which targeted trades people who are the group of workers most at risk from exposure to asbestos, the HSE continues to warn against the dangers of all types of asbestos, working in partnership with unions, industry, suppliers, training providers and victim support groups. A recent example is the training pledge whereby organisations providing asbestos awareness training volunteered to supply more than 13,500 hours of free training for trades people who may come across asbestos in their day-to-day work. The noble Baroness is right. We are still discovering asbestos today.
The HSE is currently considering options for a further campaign along the lines of hidden killer. However, that will depend on the availability of funding, and decisions on what such a campaign might entail have yet to be made. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jones, for his contribution, which brought the whole matter to life for me and helped us to see how terrible these diseases are.
As regards splitting the figure as required by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, under the 2008 scheme the figure is £9.2 million, and under the 1979 scheme the figure is £43.9 million.
Does that mean that the recovery levels are double the 2008 compensation payment allowance?
I shall have to write but will do so as quickly as I can. As regards any other questions raised by noble Lords, I will write what is becoming an expanding letter. I thank all noble Lords who have participated. As I hope I have emphasised, the Government recognise that these two schemes perform an important role. I commend the uprating of the payment scales and ask for the approval of noble Lords to implement them.
Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2012
Considered in Grand Committee
That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
Relevant document: 41st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
On behalf of my noble friend Lord Freud, I beg to move.
Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Automatic Enrolment) (Amendment) Regulations 2012
Considered in Grand Committee
That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Automatic Enrolment) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
Relevant document: 41st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Freud, I am pleased to introduce two instruments, which were laid before the House on 7 February. They form the final pieces of the framework for automatic enrolment. I am required to say that I am satisfied that they are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is vital that we tackle the problem that increasing longevity brings when coupled with decreasing pension saving. Millions of people are simply not saving enough for their retirement. Automatic enrolment will, for the first time, place a duty on employers to put their eligible workers into a pension scheme. This will result in between 5 million and 8 million people newly saving or saving more in workplace pensions.
We are now very close to the start of the roll out. As my honourable friend the Minister for Pensions has said, for many of us, it is automatic enrolment rather than the London Olympics which will be the main event in 2012. We are very grateful to the Mayor of London for installing a countdown clock in Trafalgar Square so that we can count the days, hours and minutes before automatic enrolment begins for the first workers.
Your Lordships' House has debated automatic enrolment legislation for more than four years. The time has now come to bring closure to some complex issues that have vexed noble Lords in particular. The instruments that we are debating today cover two broad areas. The first is certification of money purchase, personal and hybrid pension schemes. There is quite a history to this issue, but at its heart we sought a pragmatic solution to a complex problem. It is important to start by emphasising the basics: why we wanted to provide a simple self-certification process, and how we managed to do that.
The aim of certification is to allow employers who already provide good-quality workplace pension schemes to continue to do so after the reforms have started, without having to make costly changes to their existing schemes or payroll processes because they calculate pension contributions on basic pay rather than on a band of qualifying earnings. As they will do this by self-certifying that their scheme satisfies the relevant quality requirements, we wanted the self-certification test to be as straightforward as possible. However, as my noble friend Lord Freud mentioned last year in debate on the Bill, there is a balance to be struck in this area between simplicity and providing appropriate safeguards to individual members. We believe that we now have this right. We have worked closely with employers and the industry and have listened to their concerns, as well as the concerns expressed by noble Lords.
Safeguards for jobholders were hotly debated by noble Lords during the passage of the Pensions Act 2011. After careful consideration of the concerns expressed, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, we tabled an amendment with a strong and enduring requirement for the Secretary of State to ensure that at least 90 per cent of jobholders will not lose out. The detail of how certification will work in practice is specified in the regulations that we are discussing today.
In the debate last year, my noble friend Lord Freud described a proposed approach that would provide a three-tier structure for self-certification. Under this, an employer will be able to self-certify that their scheme meets the alternative quality requirements if it requires one of the following: first, contributions of at least 9 per cent of basic pay, including at least 4 per cent from the employer; secondly, contributions of at least 8 per cent of basic pay, including at least 3 per cent from the employer—and in addition, basic pay taken in aggregate must be at least 85 per cent of total pay; or thirdly, contributions of at least 7 per cent of total earnings, including at least 3 per cent from the employer. This is the test we are providing in regulations, with fine-tuning of the detail taken on board during consultation.
Before I come to the fine-tuning, I will stress the significance of the provisions. They mean that employers who already provide their workers with a pension will be able to meet their new duties without having to make costly and burdensome changes to pension schemes and payroll systems. Crucially, I will confirm that they also meet the test that the vast majority—at least 90 per cent of jobholders—will receive at least as good a deal as they would have done had they been in a scheme where the contribution was based on qualifying earnings. Indeed, many will be better off.
When we tested the draft regulations through consultation, there was broad support for our proposals from organisations that represented employers, the pensions industry and individuals. There was particular support for striking the right balance so that we have something that works for employers while providing appropriate protection for individuals.
We heard a strong message that the definition of basic pay needs further refinement so that it provides certainty to employers. We have now provided this by explicitly excluding several allowances—as well as bonuses, overtime and commission—from the definition of basic pay. The test that at least 90 per cent of jobholders should not lose out will still be met.
Another request that we have been able to meet in response to the consultation was to extend the proposed one-year certification period to 18 months. This will enable employers to carry out the renewal of their certificate at an appropriate point, depending on their use of the waiting period and the flexibility around three-yearly re-enrolment. We have published guidance for employers and their advisers alongside these regulations, which we intend will help to explain how certification will work in practice to ensure that schemes can qualify to be used for automatic enrolment.
The second part of these instruments is aimed at ensuring that automatic enrolment will provide access to pension saving for as many people as possible by bringing in some groups of individuals who are currently out of scope. Following an amendment brought in your Lordships’ House, the Pensions Act 2008 excluded seafarers and offshore workers from the reforms. However, this exclusion was only ever intended to be temporary. Additional time was needed to resolve some very complex legal issues—in particular in relation to international maritime law and custom—that are relevant to how the reforms should apply to seafarers and offshore workers.
We have worked closely with organisations in the shipping and offshore industries, as well as with other government departments, and are now confident that we have satisfactorily resolved these issues. I am particularly grateful to the Chamber of Shipping and the relevant trade unions for their considerable input, without which we might not have been able to make this progress.
The instruments that we are debating today will ensure that both seafarers and offshore workers are covered by the reforms. For the sake of clarity, when we talk about seafarers in this context we mean people working on ships or hovercraft, but we do not include share fishermen as they are self-employed and, like all self-employed people, they are outside the scope of the reforms. Offshore workers are, broadly speaking, those working on oil or gas rigs in the North Sea.
In brief, we are now satisfied that both seafarers and offshore workers should be jobholders if they are “ordinarily working” in the United Kingdom and meet the age and earnings criteria. This means that we will treat them in the same way as those working on the mainland. This is a similar approach to that adopted for the national minimum wage. The Pensions Regulator has now provided guidance on the application of the “ordinarily working” test.
The provisions for both seafarers and offshore workers are subject to a statutory review and contain a sunset clause. We have made this compulsory for all new legislation where there is a net cost to business, and it will allow us to monitor the operation of these provisions and contribute towards our goal of transforming the role of regulation in our society.
Finally, police officers do not have employers for automatic enrolment because the police are officeholders.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My Lords, if I may continue from where I was interrupted, I was about to say that, finally, police officers do not have employers for automatic enrolment because the police are officeholders. The Pensions Act 2008 brought police officers and police cadets into automatic enrolment by deeming them to be employed by the relevant police authority. However, police officers seconded to the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency or the Scottish Police Services Authority had no such employment relationship because, despite its name, the Scottish Police Services Authority is not technically a police authority as defined in the legislation. These regulations correct that and extend the definition of worker for automatic enrolment to these two groups of police officers. I commend these instruments to the Committee.
My Lords, as I was strolling to this Committee this afternoon, a noble friend stopped me and asked where I was off to. When I advised him that I was off to deal with some statutory instruments, he said to me, “I hope you sit quietly and say very little, as we do in the Commons”. I gulped quietly as I held in my hand my 10 minutes of detailed script. I did not know whether to feel admonished or what. I told myself that our role is to scrutinise, so I hope that noble Lords will bear with me and allow me to go through the issues that I want to raise and ask questions on.
As the Minister has said, these regulations set out the alternative quality requirements. I acknowledge the amendment made by the Government to Section 12 of the Pensions Act 2011, and I accept that considerable work and thought have gone into drafting these regulations. Nevertheless, I remain anxious because, as the Minister has said, the main purpose of the alternative quality requirement test is to give an easement to good employers with good DC pension schemes to encourage them to retain those schemes. This makes good sense and one would not want to undermine the continuation of good existing provision. That sits full-square with the public policy intentions. However, the alternative quality requirements—and this is what makes me anxious—should not enable bad employers to leverage self-certification to avoid their responsibilities.
On the form of certificate showing that the alternative quality requirements are satisfied, the requirements, particularly the facility to use the alternative test for part of the scheme or only for some jobholders, give rise to the potential to leverage the regulation to reduce auto-enrolment costs, for example where high and low earners are grouped together and/or where non-basic pay makes up a very significant proportion of earnings.
I welcome the requirement in the regulations on employers to provide information of both the names and the roles of the relevant jobholders where the certificate relates to only some of the jobholders, because they should assist in identifying bad behaviour, particularly as the Secretary of State has a responsibility to review the strength of the alternative certification test. I would welcome the Minister confirming that the findings from the Secretary of State’s review of the alternative certification requirements will be published prior to the wider 2017 review of the pension reforms as a whole.
I also ask the Minister about trust-based scheme with trustees and rules. Will the trustees bear any responsibility on the matter of whether the employer’s scheme or part of the scheme can satisfy the alternative quality requirements? If the answer is yes, will that also apply to trustees of multi-employer schemes and master trusts?
As for the renewal of the certificate, the employer has to assess on renewal whether during the past or future certification periods, the quality requirements were or will be met. Where an element was not met—in the past tense—the employer must consider what action needs to be taken to ensure that does not happen in the future. That requirement is welcome for future certification periods, but my question to the Minister is this: if it is revealed that a jobholder who should have been auto-enrolled was not auto-enrolled, or where some one receives an employer contribution lower than it should have been under the relevant quality requirements, will there be a legal requirement on an employer to notify the jobholder and to make good their employer contribution?
On the alternative requirements themselves for money purchase schemes and likewise for other schemes, I remain concerned that the first and second tests provide for pensionable earnings to be equal only to basic pay. For good employers, where basic pay makes up a significant proportion of earnings, a minimum of 4 per cent of employer contribution is clearly going to be a good base load. However, where basic pay forms a significantly lower proportion of their earnings, I remain concerned about abuse, particularly when that is taken with the explicit acceptance that there can be a 10 per cent shortfall in contributions for those who lose out.
I welcome the fact that a scheme is not to be treated as meeting the relevant quality requirements where the regulator is of the view that there are no reasonable grounds to do so and the regulator can issue compliance notices on employers where there is a shortfall in contribution payments or a failure to meet an alternative test. When the regulator issues a compliance notice on an employer, and a relevant jobholder during the certification period has since ceased to be employed, will the employer still have to make good any shortfall in respect of that now ex-employee or ex-jobholder?
As to the definitions in the regulations, the definition of basic pay lists all those payments and allowances that can be disregarded. The assumption in the drafting is that these additional payments are paid in addition to basic pay, so it is straightforward to disregard them. Sometimes such allowances are given in substitution of basic pay, so if you have salary substitution, basic pay is forgone in exchange. The employer meets the cost of an expenditure, resulting in savings in NI and tax, often for both parties. The use of salary substitution has grown exponentially and we see it being applied to such varied items as pension contributions, the provision of cars, computers, bicycles, and childcare vouchers, to name a few. In such situations it would not be unusual for an employer to have pay records that track two basic pay entitlements for a jobholder: one that applies post-salary substitution; and one that applies when salary substitution ceases or when pay rises are awarded. Will the Minister say whether consideration has been given to how the definition of basic pay will apply in certification requirements when an employer uses salary substitution?
With regard to giving a certificate and its retention and disclosure, the regulations—clearly a good thing—allow for a relevant jobholder or a recognised independent trade union to request and receive a copy of that certificate within six years after the end of the certification period. Does the relevant jobholder have to be a jobholder at the time of making the request, or is it sufficient to have been a relevant jobholder during the certification period? If a request is made during the certification period, must that request also be met by the employer? I welcome the decision to extend the coverage of the new employer duty to seafarers and offshore workers. I read the impact assessment in detail, which sets out clearly the complexities that had to be dealt with and how the regulations have sought to address those. I am very pleased that that decision was made.
I take this opportunity to refer to the Automatic Enrolment (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2012. It is a negative instrument but it addresses the important matter of the schedule of information to be provided in a notice from the employer to defer automatic enrolment to the end of a waiting period and in respect of the automatic enrolment information provisions generally. As all of us who believe passionately in pensions recognise, automatic enrolment turns inertia into a positive, and anything that undermines that beneficial inertia will undermine persistency of savings. How the opt-out procedures operate in practice will be pretty key to the success of the reforms and participation rates. It is clear, which I can see from my own experience, that good employers will take the opportunity of auto-enrolment to review positively their pensions proposition for the new generation of employees. There is clearly plenty of evidence there.
Subtleties in the employer behavioural response to regulation, particularly negative behaviour, always surprises policy-makers. They always miss some key behavioural responses. Jobholders in high-turnover occupations will be particularly vulnerable to the subtlety of employer responses to these regulations. For example, nothing in the regulations prevents employers giving several reminders of the opt-out dates to jobholders during the waiting period, and clearly the implicit intent is to increase opt-out rates. The impact assessment helpfully refers to the DWP’s intention to issue a template for generic and tailored information to be provided by employers. If the information provided to jobholders is significantly different from the template, will that be considered a breach of the regulations?
At the end of the waiting period, if a worker is not eligible for automatic enrolment but subsequently becomes so, an employer can apply a second waiting period of three months, a facility that, as my noble friend Lord McKenzie has previously observed, tips the balance too far in favour of employer easement at the cost of the saver. These regulations allow employers flexibility in choosing the re-enrolment date, so where a jobholder is not eligible at the re-enrolment date but subsequently becomes so, will the employer still be able, yet again, to add a further three-month waiting period before auto-enrolling that individual? I hope the answer to that question is no because the short-term worker argument cannot apply in that situation because we are in the era of re-enrolment. As it is a three-year anniversary, I hope the administrative systems will be in place, but I can see an endless series of three-month waiting periods running through first staging and the subsequent re-enrolment period.
My Lords, I will reverse the order in which I ask questions of the Minister on these regulations and the order. First, I welcome, as I am sure we all do, the extension to seafarers and off-shore workers. I have two questions. The first relates to the ordinary working test and the second to some of the conditions that I see in the impact assessment and the Explanatory Memorandum. I wish to get some understanding of the number of people who will be brought into the structure and of whether some people might fall out of it because of the way it is prescribed in the proposed legislation.
On the ordinary working test, the flag-blind approach is very welcome. We must avoid people being switched from being a normally UK worker by virtue of their vessel changing its flag to that of another country. The ordinary working test, as I read it in the documentation accompanying this legalisation, defines people’s work as starting and ending in a UK port. There are two exceptions to that which can normally be the case with seafarers and off-shore workers. Seafarers sometimes work on vessels that are incoming to the UK. They will often be flown out to the vessel in order to work it and then back into the UK afterwards. Often their starting point will not be with a vessel leaving a UK port but a flight from a UK airport to join the vessel, and then they will either bring it back to the UK or leave it at some other foreign port. Naturally, these people regard themselves as working from the United Kingdom. They might be working on a ship with a UK flag but they do not necessarily start from a UK port.
The same applies to off-shore workers. I had the fortunate experience—and I say ‘fortunate’ because it was very interesting indeed—of going to an off-shore oil platform in the North Sea. Most workers go by helicopter from an airport rather than by vessel to the gas and oil installation. I wonder whether legislation that says,
“starting and ending from a UK port”,
actually means starting and ending from a UK base rather than a UK port.
As to the numbers of people involved, I notice the revision of the estimate of the workers who will be engaged. As I understand it, there are 22,200 off-shore workers in the industry who would be classified as working from the UK and 27,800 seafarers. But the numbers who are eligible for auto-enrolment are of course significantly less than that: 9,000 of the 22,200 off-shore workers and 17,000 of the 27,800 seafarers.
Could the Minister explain the difference between those two sets of figures? Is it perhaps that some of these people are already in a pension scheme that meets the eligibility criteria? I do not understand why they would not necessarily be seen as being eligible for auto-enrolment anyway. I do not know whether that is a definition problem or whether I have misread the numbers in the way they have been portrayed to me.
My second set of questions relates to the definition of the quality test, which has already been referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Drake: that is, of course, the three tests being applied. In the discussions that we have had on these issues in Committee, noble Lords will remember that we talked about the quality of the alternative schemes as well as who would necessarily fall in or out of them. It is that quality test about which I would like to ask my noble friend a specific question. It is in relation to the fees and the ways in which moneys might be paid back for short-term investments in small pots where the length of service is below the number of years for which it would have to continue, and where people have been offering back a certain proportion of the money, or alternatively, where the fees that are being charged on the money which is invested are greater.
It is my understanding that the Government has now taken the powers to regulate the fees charged in this area and I wonder whether my noble friend could explain if and when those powers are to be taken up in order to provide an alternative quality pension provision for those who are not taking up the NEST scheme, which we know is on offer alongside it. In general terms, these orders take the date a little bit closer to the countdown clock and I welcome the fact that we are getting much closer now to the date when these schemes will become part of the mainstream for the workforce of our country.
My Lords, almost by definition those attending in this room are enthusiasts for pensions, and we are a rather self-defining and small number. Of course, I would join in the approbation of both the principle of auto-enrolment, the related but not identical issue of the NEST scheme, and the new regulations which will provide some authentic alternative tests, and will make it easier for businesses to come to terms with auto-enrolment. That seems to be very welcome, and that should be put on the record. I do not think there is any material opposition, providing that we can make these things work.
I do not wish to add to the Minister’s troubles—because some very complicated issues have been raised—save only to comment on two of them. One is in relation to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, who knows this subject so well. When she raised the issue about salary sacrifice, it occurred to me that in some companies or organisations it would be not at all rare for arrangements to be made for consensual salary sacrifice with, as she said, the two options being put to an individual. There could potentially be a problem if there were a contractual arrangement, where perhaps there is a two-year undertaking and an option has been given for one or another, and the automatic enrolment might kick in in the middle. There would be difficulties unless the employer were particularly fleet of foot in ensuring that the employee was offered something new at that time because the situation might be different. That is a point of sensitivity which the Minister and officials may wish to consider.
My second point was prompted, although I am not for a moment suggesting that it is identical, by the issue about offshore employment. That is something that I have not thought much about since the days of the national minimum wage legislation, which was 15 years ago. Using that as a proxy—a very loose proxy—it occurs to me, reflecting back on the debates that we had on the Pensions Act last year, that we spent quite a lot of time talking about small pots. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, who I am sure would wish to be here, mentioned extensively the position of women. One wanted them to be able to contribute; one wanted to find a cost-effective way; and one did not want the conditions to be unreasonably restrictive. That is all perfectly sensible. Then there were worries about the administrative cost and the practicability.
Perhaps for the purpose of this discussion in Grand Committee, I could mention using the proxy of offshore employment and it would be helpful if the Minister could consider the position of overseas employees. As I understand it, under the law, certainly if you are an EU and probably if you are an EEA national and you are employed here, you would expect to be offered exactly the same terms and rightly so. However, I am concerned that situations might arise where people come within the rubric, make one or two contributions and then maybe their employment shifts. They may go back to their native country because they have come here for a season, or whatever, but they will have entered into our national insurance records and into our private sector pension arrangements. Then they are left with what you might call a super-stranded or a super-small pot, to which they have an entitlement, which is difficult to claim.
This is not a completely nugatory issue. There are surprising numbers of people in this situation. For example, I remember one of the drivers at the Council of Europe, saying to me, “I have worked in London for a bit and I have got to come to London to sort out the two or three years’ of pension entitlement that I have”. That is reasonable enough. We are not arguing against the principle. However, in making the whole matter of automatic enrolment and the related matter of NEST viable, we need to try to minimise the administrative complexity and, at the same time, ensure that those who have earned entitlement should be able to avail themselves of it. It should not all disappear into a kind of bureaucratic black hole, which can be redeemed only by superhuman efforts and personal attendance at a former company’s seat. I notice the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, is nodding at that.
I do not think that either of those two points that I have raised turns us away from the sensible things that these regulations intend. However, it is important that we should think about them. In a way, this has refired my enthusiasm for the fact that we will need a structured review in four or five years’ time—in 2017—to look at whether this is working as we intend. If any of these kinds of difficulties need attention then, they should receive it, if they have not been attended to beforehand.
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Drake has dealt with the substance of these regulations from our perspective, so I can be brief and I shall ask few questions, which the Minister will doubtless be pleased to hear. We should start by acknowledging again the decision to proceed with an auto-enrolment following the independent review and to support NEST as an integral part of this. I think the Government should be congratulated on taking that forward.
As the Minister will be aware, we have concerns about the scope of some of the easements introduced by the Pensions Act 2011 and by this suite of regulations but the basic architecture remains intact. However, further increases in the personal tax allowance, should these be forthcoming in the Budget, will exclude even more workers from the benefit of auto-enrolment with consequential savings for the Treasury. Obviously, we support offshore workers being brought into scope. This was always the intention. As we have heard, the order treats someone with an offshore employment as,
“a worker ‘who is working or ordinarily works in Great Britain under the worker’s contract’”,
and similar provisions apply to Northern Ireland. However, the provisions do not apply where the employment is in the foreign sector of a cross-boundary petroleum field. Are we dealing here only with cross-boundary fields affecting Norway, or are there any others? I do not know about the Southern Basin or the Irish Sea, or whether there could be an EC country involved, which was the purpose of the question.
I am interested to note that the noble Lord, Lord German, paid a trip to an offshore rig, as did I. I hope he undertook the helicopter training whereby they dunk you three times underwater and see if you escape—obviously the noble Lord did. I jest, but it is a very important part of the training and the risks that people working in those circumstances endure.
It is noted that auto-enrolment applies whether or not the employer is incorporated outside the UK and presumably whether or not the employer is resident in the UK. Can the Minister confirm how jurisdiction is established in these circumstances? Is it via the licensing arrangements for the platforms? How were those entities reached to ensure compliance? We have made reference to the tribunals in the regulations, but what would be the legal process to reach them? We similarly support the inclusion of seafarers and the two groups of police officers.
The certification provisions have been a bone of contention for some while. The objective of facilitating schemes, particularly existing schemes, without excluding tranches of jobholders has not been without its challenges. My noble friend Lady Drake has raised a number of significant questions, especially around definitions of basic pay and salary sacrifice, which I hope the Minister will be able to address—in writing if not immediately today.
We have always been clear that easements to encourage good existing schemes to be retained should be supported provided they do not undermine the auto-enrolment opportunities, particularly for the lower paid. The Minister reiterated that the proposals before us mean that 90 per cent of jobholders will not lose out. What information do we have about the profile of the up to 10 per cent of workers who would miss out under these certification processes?
On a small point of detail, I was trying to see from the text how the tax component of the payments fitted in to the formal relief. I can see it does not matter when you are dealing with arrangements where people get their tax relief by deduction at corporate and individual level, but on personal pension plans, if that tax contribution is made directly by HMRC into the scheme, I am not quite sure how that component is provided for in these arrangements. The Minister may wish to write on that, although I can see the Box scribbling away with confidence behind him as I speak.
We are in a situation where we simply need to get on with this. This year is going to be an important year for auto-enrolment. Many people have striven for many years to make this a reality, not least my noble friend Lady Drake, and we are pleased to see that it is making progress.
My Lords, as is always the case with pension reform, it has been a more than interesting and lively debate. The comments of noble Lords have been insightful and helpful and I thank them for those.
These reforms are designed to transform the culture of saving for retirement in our country. Automatic enrolment is a bold start, but we have also begun looking at how to improve transfers to deal with small pension pots, a point raised by my noble friend Lord Boswell, and the industry is looking at issues around the transparency of charges. Both these issues were debated in your Lordships’ House during the passage of the Pensions Bill. On transfers and small pots, our consultation closes next week and we will publish a response in the summer. The Pensions Regulator has also recently published a document on what a good direct contributions scheme looks like in order to help employers to select an automatic enrolment scheme.
I will now do my best to wade through the large number of important questions asked by noble Lords. I will start with a question raised quite late in the day by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, because it sets the tone of the debate. It concerned the 10 per cent of jobholders who might lose out. Employers who are aiming to meet the minimum requirements under the law are unlikely by definition to use self-certification. Those using it will tend to be those seeking to run a scheme that is at least as generous as, and probably more generous than, a statutory minimum scheme for at least 90 per cent of their workers. We are talking about employers who see the provision of pensions as an important benefit for their workers. We want to allow such employers some latitude, or we may end up losing these more generous benefits for many workers. Therefore, because members will be in a comparatively generous scheme, the risk that they will lose out to a significant extent will be small.
The noble Baroness, Lady Drake, asked a lot of pertinent questions. They were fairly technical and I want to make sure that I address the right question in each case, so I may write on a number of them. I will attempt to answer as many of them as I can. She asked about the publication of the assessment certifying that the conditions of the 90 per cent test are still being met. That will be published in 2017. She asked whether, if an individual has a shortfall, the employer will be required to make it up. If the employer has miscertified when he should not have done so, the Pensions Regulator will have powers to end the certificate and require the employer to make up the shortfall.
The noble Baroness asked about waiting periods and re-enrolment. An employer cannot use a waiting period in relation to re-enrolment so the problem of multiple waiting periods will not apply. She asked about the use of self-certification for certain groups of jobholders and suggested that the system could lead to abuse. What I might term “good” employers told us that they needed flexibility in how they applied the certification test. We will monitor the use of certification as part of the evaluation of the reforms. If we find that employers are abusing certification, we will have the power to change the scheme and ultimately repeal it by order if necessary.
The noble Baroness, Lady Drake, and my noble friend Lord Boswell asked about the issue of salary sacrifice. The definition of “earnings” in the Pensions Act 2008 is,
“earnings payable to the person”.
If an individual chooses to sacrifice part of his or her salary, it is no longer “payable” and therefore not part of earnings, so the employer contribution would be payable only on the residual earnings. I will consider the point made by my noble friend Lord Boswell.
The noble Baroness, Lady Drake, asked about employer behaviour and increases in the opt-out rate—effectively, not following the template. The statutory requirement is to provide the prescribed information. There is no statutory restriction on providing additional information, but putting pressure on a worker to opt out is unlawful. Employers will need to be careful that they do not overstep the pressure test, even implicitly, by applying pressure to their workers.
My noble friend Lord German asked about the issue of “ordinarily working” in the context of seafarers. There are several factors a court is likely to consider in deciding where a seafarer is based and therefore whether they are ordinarily working in the United Kingdom. Where they join and leave the ship is just one of them. Other factors can be taken into account, such as the terms of their contracts. Offshore workers are deemed to be ordinarily working in the United Kingdom if they are working on the UK continental shelf or working on the UK part of a cross-boundary field. For offshore workers, the start and end of a journey does not matter.
My noble friend Lord German also asked about powers to cap charges. The Government have taken powers to place restrictions on charges in pension schemes. However, charges are not currently high in default schemes. They are typically in the range of 0.4 to 0.6 per cent. The industry is responding and a code of practice on transparency of charges is planned. We do not propose to regulate without evidence that it is necessary, but we will if there is evidence of a problem.
I am not sure when the Minister is going to finish and do not want to miss the opportunity to—
There is some way to go yet.
I was rather disconcerted when I discovered the implications of the interrelationships between earnings payable and how that applies under the salary substitution. A good employer simply has a shadow basic pay and pays pension contributions on that. I have not had an opportunity to go through whether there is a relevant hook in the schedule information, but the Minister should consider how this issue is brought to the attention of employees as they may simply not be aware of the implications for their pension contribution rights of taking on excessive amounts of salary contribution on a cumulative basis. The Minister did answer my question about employers having to make good the shortfall. I am particularly interested in whether they have to make the shortfall good where that employee has left and how they would do that. I am happy to have that in writing.
My Lords, I understand both the questions. I am grateful for the noble Baroness’s acceptance that I should write because I need to consider the questions carefully before I answer them.
My noble friend Lord Boswell asked about a worker returning overseas with a small pot. The waiting period of three months will allow for workers such as summer workers, who work for a relatively short period, such that the issue does not arise. However, the problem of what I might call stranded pots is a real one. The Minister for Pensions is currently considering this for United Kingdom workers and I will pass my noble friend’s comments about overseas workers on to him so that he can take it into account in his deliberations.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked about the automatic enrolment rates for next year. The amounts for the automatic enrolment earnings trigger and the qualifying earnings band are subject to annual review. We have consulted on proposed thresholds for next year and are considering the responses. We aim to publish the response and announce the rates for 2012-13 soon, which is coded language that I think the noble Lord will understand.
The noble Lord also asked about the legal process to access the tribunals for offshore workers. I am going to have to write on that as I am on access to tax relief on personal pensions. He asked about the profile of the 10 per cent who may lose out from certification. I think I have covered that already but should add that we have examined the matter to ensure that our measures are not discriminatory. I suspect that when I am writing afterwards I might discuss that issue in some more detail.
I will, of course, look at the record to see whether there is anything else that has not been addressed. As I said, these provisions put in place necessary pieces of the automatic enrolment framework which will enable employers to comply with the new duties. This will protect existing, good-quality schemes while also providing ongoing protection for job-holders enrolled in them. We are also ensuring that these reforms bring on board individuals who are ordinarily working in the United Kingdom, regardless of whether their work is on land or at sea. I commend these instruments to the Committee.
Automatic Enrolment (Offshore Employment) Order 2012
Considered in Grand Committee
That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Automatic Enrolment (Offshore Employment) Order 2012.
Relevant document: 41st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
On behalf of my noble friend Lord Freud, I beg to move that the Grand Committee do consider the draft Automatic Enrolment (Offshore Employment) Order 2012, to which I have already spoken.
Committee adjourned at 7 pm.