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Public Service Pensions Bill

Volume 743: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2013

Third Reading

Clause 3 : Scheme regulations

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 3, page 2, line 9, at end insert “in relation to the scheme or any provision of this Act”

My Lords, this group contains a large number of technical amendments. Amendment 1 reflects the fact that some of the obligations in the Bill are set in the main clauses and not in scheme regulations. This means that the drafting of Clause 3, which allows only for consequential, supplementary, incidental or transitional changes as a result of provisions in scheme regulations, leaves a theoretical gap in powers that we would like to plug. If such changes were required solely as a result of provisions in the Bill rather than in scheme regulations, we might not be able to do so without making new primary legislation. We do not believe that that would be appropriate, so the amendments in this group seek to address the slight gap in the current drafting.

Of course, this extends the powers to cover only consequential, supplementary, incidental or transitional changes that result from clauses that have been debated at length in both Houses. Parliament is already aware of the desired effects of the Bill. These powers ensure that the effects can be realised. As we discussed on Report, any use of these powers to amend primary legislation could only be for consequential purposes and to Acts that have already been passed. I therefore hope that noble Lords can support this small but sensible amendment.

Amendments 4 and 5 are minor technical amendments. They are simply to provide consistency throughout the Bill in the form of cross-references to Schedule 4 to the Pensions Act 1995. They ensure that the same format is used in Clauses 34 and 35 as is used in Clause 10.

Amendments 8 and 9 are again minor amendments intended to clarify the wording, in this case of amendments I brought forward on Report. Noble Lords will recall that those amendments give schemes flexibility to define pensionable earnings for the purpose of the final salary link, and also safeguard the value of members’ final salary benefits. The safeguard is that the amount of earnings in the new scheme that are pensionable earnings for the purpose of the final salary link must not be materially less than the amount that would have applied had the person been in the old scheme until the point they eventually left service. The amendments simply clarify the safeguard. They make it clear that it applies to what would have been the person’s pensionable earnings had that person been in active service in the old scheme or deemed transfer scheme, rather than the new scheme. They would, of course, not have been in actual active service in those schemes after 2015, since they would have been in active service in the new scheme instead. The amendments do not change the substance of the meaning of the previous amendments in any way, but are just clarificatory.

Amendment 10 is concerned with circumstances where a pension that is calculated in accordance with the final salary link has been put into payment and the person subsequently returns to public service employment. It is designed to allow flexibility for schemes to continue their current treatment of a final salary pension in payment in such circumstances. Our intention is for the final salary link to accord with the rules on final salary benefits in each scheme that are currently in force. Some schemes currently allow the final salary benefits to be recalculated after a period of re-employment. The provisions in Schedule 7 allow this approach to continue where there is continuity of service, as provided for in paragraph 3. However, many schemes currently treat final salary benefits that have already been put into payment as fully crystallised, and consequently unaffected by any future period of employment in scheme service. Our amendment would allow for scheme regulations to provide that this continues to be the case too, if desired. Rules of existing schemes can also continue to provide for some limited aggregation of periods of employment, as some do at the moment. This amendment assists schemes in the implementation of the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Hutton, to honour the benefits built up under the current final salary schemes.

Amendment 11 consists of a series of minor, consequential amendments to the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971. It clarifies how the uprating provisions of that Act apply to those with service in both an existing scheme and a new one. The 1971 Act provides for the uprating of pension benefits for deferred and pensioner members of the public service schemes. The intention is that while a person is a member of a new scheme after 2015, and they have also old scheme benefits, those old scheme benefits should be treated for uprating purposes as though they remained an active member. This should remain the case until the member takes the old scheme pension or leaves the new scheme. This means that for those persons whose existing scheme is a final salary scheme, their benefits in that scheme will be uprated through the final salary link provisions in Schedule 7 to the Bill. For those persons whose existing scheme is a career average scheme, their benefits should continue to be revalued as if they remained an active member. This amendment clarifies how the provisions in the Pensions (Increase) Act apply in the circumstances I have just described.

Where people continue in service, the old scheme benefits should not be treated as deferred from 2015. To do so would mean that those benefits would be uprated in line with prices from 2015, which would run counter to the treatment of old scheme benefits recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Hutton.

The final amendment in this group relates to an amendment I introduced on Report to paragraph 30 of Schedule 8. This paragraph amends Schedule 4 to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to enable those active members of the Legal Services Commission pension schemes to transfer into the Civil Service scheme on 1 April 2014 to have full access to the transitional provisions contained in Clause 18. This subsequent amendment is a minor tweak to paragraph 30 to ensure that, in addition to those active members, deferred members of the LSC pension schemes who rejoin within a five-year period will also benefit from the transition provisions. This is entirely consistent with wider government policy on the treatment of deferred members of public service pension schemes. It will ensure that employees of the LSC are not unfairly disadvantaged by the changes to their pension provision. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining the content of these essentially technical amendments. I particularly welcome the approach, which is in accord with the recommendation of my noble friend Lord Hutton.

I have but one question of the noble Lord, and that is why his remarks were not prefaced by an apology to the House for having put down these amendments as late as 5 pm yesterday afternoon.

My Lords, I have my apology prepared and I will now give it. I thought it was the next group of amendments about which the noble Lord was particularly concerned.

I apologise to the House for the late tabling of these amendments. There is nothing sinister about it. As noble Lords will have understood, I hope, from my explanation of them, they were extremely minor technical amendments. The reason for the delay was simply to ensure that all legal issues had been adequately addressed in the final drafting. I had hoped we could have done it sooner, but that was the sole reason for the delay in the amendments being submitted. I repeat, I am sorry that we did not do it earlier.

Amendment 1 agreed.

Clause 9 : Revaluation

Amendment 2

Moved by

2: Clause 9, page 5, line 39, leave out “the negative Commons procedure” and insert “—

(a) the affirmative Commons procedure, if the order specifies a percentage decrease for the purposes of subsection (2), and(b) the negative Commons procedure, in any other case.”

My Lords, on Report, I asked the noble Lords, Lord Whitty and Lord Eatwell, to withdraw their amendments on the revaluation order because of my intention to return with an amendment of my own. I said that I would consider the parliamentary procedure for the revaluation order where it specifies a negative figure, and the amendments that I have tabled, albeit at the last minute, are in line with that commitment.

As I have made clear on several occasions before, it would be wrong to rule out revaluations that set out negative figures on the very rare occasions where either the CPI or earnings were in negative territory. This would be unfair to the taxpayer and represent an asymmetric sharing of risk, which was specifically referenced by the noble Lord, Lord Hutton, in his report.

The amendments that I have brought forward do not affect the ability to track growth directly. I do not wish to rehearse at length the strong arguments I have deployed in the past. However, these amendments increase the level of parliamentary scrutiny in the highly unlikely event that we see negative growth. Where the Treasury order sets a negative figure, which I remind the House it can determine only on reasonable and justifiable terms by reference to the general level of prices or earnings, the order will be subject to the affirmative procedure. This will ensure that Parliament has an opportunity to debate the measure. Given the uniqueness of a situation in which the revaluation of benefits could lead to a decrease in entitlement, the Government believe that this is an appropriate and sensible additional safeguard of members’ interests.

However, I should point out that the vast majority of the revaluations will involve run of the mill legislation that simply sets out the relevant increases in line with announced government policy. For example, if the new schemes are already in place, the order for this year would simply set out the positive change in prices in line with the CPI and the positive change in earnings in line with the average weekly earnings measure. Both of these have been in the public domain for quite some time.

When we are not experiencing something extraordinarily unusual such as negative growth, it would go too far to provide for the affirmative procedure for every order as provided for in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will understand why I am not able to accept his amendment. The Government’s amendments strike the appropriate balance between parliamentary scrutiny and sensible regulation-making. I hope they will provide some comfort and that noble Lords will be able to support them. I beg to move.

I should advise your Lordships that if this amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendment 3 for reason of pre-emption.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for introducing these amendments, and for reacting as he promised on Report to the issues raised there by me and my noble friend Lord Whitty. His speech was slightly imperfectly drafted as it referred on several occasions to the unlikelihood of negative growth. In fact under this coalition Government negative growth has become an all too common characteristic of our economy. He was, of course, referring to the negative growth of prices and earnings. In that dimension, he may hopefully be more accurate.

Our amendment was put down at 4.30 pm yesterday afternoon because of the absence of any government amendment at that time dealing with this issue. The government amendment appeared half an hour later. In the circumstances we are pleased that the Government have understood some of the important issues raised, particularly by my noble friend Lord Whitty, and have brought forward appropriate amendments to take into account the arguments that he made both in Committee and on Report. I will therefore not move Amendment 3, and will be quite happy to see government Amendment 2 nodded through.

Amendment 2 agreed.

Amendment 3 not moved.

Clause 34 : Parliamentary and other pension schemes: pension age

Amendment 4

Moved by

4: Clause 34, page 18, line 13, at end insert “Part 1 of”

Amendment 4 agreed.

Clause 35 : Members of the European Parliament

Amendment 5

Moved by

5: Clause 35, page 18, line 44, after “in” insert “Part 1 of”

Amendment 5 agreed.

Clause 36 : General interpretation

Amendment 6

Moved by

6: Clause 36, page 19, line 13, leave out “has the meaning” and insert “and “the affirmative Commons procedure” have the meanings”.

Amendment 6 agreed.

Clause 37 : Regulations, orders and directions

Amendment 7

Moved by

7: Clause 37, page 21, line 46, at end insert—

“( ) In this Act, the “affirmative Commons procedure”, in relation to a Treasury order, means that the order may not be made unless a draft of the instrument containing it has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, the House of Commons.”

Amendment 7 agreed.

Schedule 7 : Final salary link

Amendments 8 to 10

Moved by

8: Schedule 7, page 37, line 29, leave out from “service” to end and insert “had the new scheme service been old scheme service”

9: Schedule 7, page 38, line 16, leave out from “service” to end and insert “had the new scheme service been deemed transfer scheme service”

10: Schedule 7, page 38, line 38, at end insert—

“Final salary link not to apply again to a pension in payment5 (1) Scheme regulations may provide that where a pension in payment under a scheme to which section 18(1) or 31(2) applies has been calculated by reference to this Schedule, the pension cannot be recalculated by reference to this Schedule where there is a subsequent period of pensionable public service (within the meaning of paragraph 3).

(2) Provision made under sub-paragraph (1) may in particular be made by amending the scheme under which the pension is in payment.”

Amendments 8 to 10 agreed.

Schedule 8 : Consequential and minor amendments

Amendments 11 and 12

Moved by

11: Schedule 8, page 39, line 18, at end insert—

“3A After section 8 of the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 there is inserted—

“8A Section 8(2): references to “service”

(1) In a case where—

(a) paragraph 1 or 2 of Schedule 7 to the 2013 Act (final salary link for persons who remain in old scheme for past service) applies in relation to a person, and(b) the person’s final salary falls to be determined by reference to that paragraph,references in section 8(2) above to the service in respect of which a pension is payable include the person’s new scheme service (within the meaning of Schedule 7 to the 2013 Act).(2) In a case where—

(a) a person is a member of a relevant old scheme by virtue of pensionable service for that scheme (“the relevant old scheme service”),(b) the person is also a member of a scheme under section 1 of the 2013 Act or a new public body pension scheme (“the new scheme”) by virtue of pensionable service for that scheme (“the new scheme service”),(c) the relevant old scheme service and the new scheme service are continuous, and (d) the person’s employer in relation to the relevant old scheme service is the person’s employer in relation to the new scheme service (or any other employer in relation to the new scheme),references in section 8(2) above to the service in respect of which a pension is payable include the person’s new scheme service.(3) In this section—

(a) “relevant old scheme” means a career average revalued earnings scheme (within the meaning of the 2013 Act) to which section 18(1) or 31(2) of that Act applies (restriction of benefits under existing schemes);(b) “employer”, “new public body pension scheme” and “pensionable service” have the same meanings as in that Act.(4) For the purposes of subsection (2)—

(a) paragraphs 3 and 4 of Schedule 7 to the 2013 Act (continuity of employment etc) apply as they apply for the purposes of paragraphs 1(2) and 2(2) of that Schedule;(b) regulations under section 1 of the 2013 Act (in the case of a new scheme under that section) or rules (in the case of a new public body pension scheme) may provide that where a pension is in payment under a relevant old scheme, references in section 8(2) above to the service in respect of which a pension is payable do not include any subsequent period of pensionable service in relation to a scheme under section 1 of the 2013 Act or a new public body pension scheme.(5) Provision made under subsection (4)(b) may in particular be made by amending the relevant old scheme.

(6) In this section, “the 2013 Act” means the Public Service Pensions Act 2013.””

12: Schedule 8, page 44, line 27, leave out from “after” to end of line 39 and insert “sub-paragraph (11) there is inserted—

“(11A) Where an individual—

(a) was a member of a relevant LSC scheme immediately before the transfer day,(b) had been a member of that scheme immediately before 1 April 2012, and(c) becomes, on or after the transfer day, a member of a civil service scheme by virtue of employment in the civil service of the State,the individual is to be regarded, for the purposes of section 18(5) of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013, as having been a member of the civil service scheme immediately before 1 April 2012.(11B) In sub-paragraph (11A)—”.”

Amendments 11 and 12 agreed.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.