HC Deb 05 July 1995 vol 263 cc427-38

'In relation to a trustee who is also a member of the scheme, the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, and the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 shall each have effect as if

  1. (a) the reasons specified in section 157(1) of the 1992 Act include reasons concerned with, or connected with, his duties as a trustee;
  2. (b) the purposes specified in section 146(1) of the 1992 Act included preventing or deterring him from carrying out any duties concerned with, or connected with his appointment as a trustee, or penalising him for carrying out such duties.'.—[Mr. Ingram.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

6.45 pm
Mr. Ingram

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss also the following: New clause 24—Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed— '.—(1) Subject to subsection (2), an employee has the right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer done on the ground that, being a trustee of a trust scheme which relates to his employment, the employee performed (or proposed to perform) any functions as such a trustee. (2) Subsection (1) does not apply where the detriment in question amounts to dismissal, except where an employee is dismissed in circumstances in which, by virtue of section 142 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 ("the 1978 Act"), section 54 of that Act does not apply to the dismissal. (3) Sections 22B and 22C of the 1978 Act (which relate to proceedings brought by an employee on the grounds that he has been subjected to a detriment in contravention of section 22A of that Act) shall have effect as if the reference in section 22B(1) to section 22A included a reference to subsection (1). (4) In the following provisions of the 1978 Act—

  1. (a) section 129 (remedy for infringement of certain rights),
  2. (b) section 141(2) (employee ordinarily working outside Great Britain), and
  3. (c) section 150 and Schedule 12 (death of employee or employer),
any reference to Part II of that Act includes a reference to subsection (1). (5) The dismissal of an employee by an employer shall be regarded for the purposes of Part V of the 1978 Act as unfair if the reason (or, if more than one, the principal reason) for it is that, being a trustee of a trust scheme which relates to his employment, the employee performed (or proposed to perform) any functions as such a trustee. (6) Where the reason or the principal reason for which an employee was selected for dismissal was that he was redundant, but it is shown —
  1. (a) that the circumstances constituting the redundancy applied equally to one or more other employees in the same undertaking who held positions similar to that held by him and who have not been dismissed by the employer, and
  2. (b) that the reason (or, if more than one, the principal reason) for which he was selected for dismissal was that specified in subsection (5),
then, for the purposes of Part V of the 1978 Act, the dismissal shall be regarded as unfair.
(7) Section 54 of the 1978 Act (right of employee not to be unfairly dismissed) applies to a dismissal regarded as unfair by virtue of subsection (5) or (6) regardless of the period for which the employee has been employed and of his age; and accordingly section 64(1) of that Act (which provides a qualifying period and an upper age limit) does not apply to such a dismissal. (8) Any provision in an agreement (whether a contract of employment or not) shall be void in so far as it purports—
  1. (a) to exclude or limit the operation of any provision of this section, or
  2. (b) to preclude any person from presenting a complaint to an industrial tribunal by virtue of any provision of this section.
(9) Subsection (8) does not apply to an agreement to refrain from presenting or continuing with a complaint where—
  1. (a) a conciliation officer has taken action under section 133(2) or (3) of the 1978 Act (general provisions as to conciliation) or under section 134(1), (2) or (3) (conciliation in case of unfair dismissal) of that Act, or
  2. (b) the conditions regulating compromise agreements under the 1978 Act (as set out in section 140(3) of that Act) are satisfied in relation to the agreement.
(10) In this section, "dismissal" has the same meaning as in Part V of the 1978 Act. (11) Section 153 of the 1978 Act (general interpretation) has effect for the purposes of this section as it has effect for the purposes of that Act.'.

Amendment No. 109, in clause 120, page 81, line 4, at end insert— '( ) This section does not apply to sections 42 to 45 and (Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed).'.

Amendment No. 110, in schedule 3, page 137, line 17, leave out 'and 43' and insert '43 and (Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed)'.

Amendment No. 111, in page 137, line 18, at end insert— '. In section 71(2B) (compensation award for failure to comply with section 69 not to be made), at the end there is added "of this Act or section (Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed) of the Pensions Act 1995. . In section 72(3) (special award), at the end there is added "of this Act or section (Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed) of the Pensions Act 1995. . In section 73(6B) (calculation of basic award), at the end there is added "of this Act or section (Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed) of the Pensions Act 1995. . In section 77(1) (interim relief), after "57A (1)(a) and (b)" there is inserted "of this Act or section (Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed) of the Pensions Act 1995". . In section 77A(1) (procedure on application for interim relief), after "57A (1)(a) and (b)" there is inserted "of this Act or section (Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed) of the Pensions Act 1995".'

Amendment No. 112, in page 137, line 22, leave out 'or 43' and insert ' 43 or (Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed)'.

Amendment No. 113, in page 137, line 25, at end insert— '. In section 138 (Application of Act to Crown employment), in subsection (1), after "and section 53" there is inserted "of this Act and sections 42 to 45 and (Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed) of the Pensions Act 1995.".'.

Mr. Ingram

The purpose of the new clause is to protect trustees from unfair dismissal for exercising any of their rights or obligations in respect of the pension funds of which they are members. This matter was extensively dealt with in another place and in our Committee deliberations, and it is right that so much attention and time have been given over to the issue, as it is clearly important.

As the law stands, employees have the right to claim compensation or reinstatement for wrongful dismissal. However, the burden of proof falls on the employee—and anyone so dismissed needs two years of qualifying service before he can take a case against the employer who dismissed him. The new clause makes dismissal automatically unfair in the case of trustees, and requires no qualifying service. In essence, it strengthens the protection afforded under the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978.

It is worth taking a look at why the new clause is required. One of the key features of the Bill is the enhanced role and responsibility given to trustees, especially to member trustees. As experience has shown, trustees are likely to be the first people to know if there is wrongdoing on the part of an employer in the administration of a pension fund.

Sir Andrew Bowden

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have added my name to his new clause, because I think it important that the House debate it. He said earlier that the new clause will mean that a company employee who becomes a trustee will be protected from dismissal as a result of his actions as a trustee, even though he has not been with the company for two years. In practice, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be extremely rare for someone to join a company and become a trustee in less than two years?

Mr. Ingram

I was going to come to that later. I am grateful for the fact that the hon. Gentleman has added his name to our new clause, and I shall deal with his point in due course.

Trustees can find themselves forcefully arguing against their employers' wishes in relation to a pension scheme, and that may be detrimental to scheme members. It may not be a case of wrongdoing in a pension scheme; it may simply be that the employers or employer trustees are seeking to do something that other trustees believe not to be in the interests of the scheme members. Employee trustees could find themselves arguing against such an action, thereby causing friction in their relationship with their employer.

In that sense, they put themselves in an exposed and vulnerable position. But if they are to do their job properly as trustees, they must be allowed to act in a free and unfettered way and not be under any pressure.

That concept was accepted by the Government. Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State said: It is important that member-nominated trustees should be able to feel free to be able to act in the best interests of the members of the scheme."—[Official Report, Standing Committee d, 16 May 1995; c. 181.] That is a position that all of us would endorse. But the Minister needs to do more than utter sweet words of encouragement to member-nominated trustees. If they are to be free from pressure, they must be given the full protection of the law in all the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Member-nominated trustees need not platitudes but protection. The Bill rightly imposes considerable responsibilities on these trustees, and in so doing exposes them to greater potential pressure from unscrupulous, crooked employers such as Robert Maxwell. They are expected to blow the whistle, but they are under no statutory obligation to do so, unlike scheme actuaries and auditors. They cannot plead such an obligation before an industrial tribunal if they are dismissed.

The Government's view is clear. They do not believe that trustees require a special protection in law. Indeed, that view was set out by Lord Mackay in another place when he said: employees are already protected against significant victimisation or bullying by employers for whatever reason … we do not believe that acting as a pension scheme trustee will put individuals in any more vulnerable a position with regard to victimisation by an employer. After all, employers set up pension schemes voluntarily; so any real employer-trustee conflict should be something of a rarity."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 13 March 1995; Vol. 562, c. 625.] That passage exposes a complete misunderstanding of what can and does take place in the real world of industry and commerce. The Maxwell case highlighted many shortfalls in pension legislation. That is why the Bill was introduced in the first place.

Bullying and the victimisation of employees was referred to during our deliberations yesterday. My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) gave the example of a member-nominated trustee of the Maxwell pension scheme. There was a member trustee who was arguing against what Maxwell was seeking to do. He wanted to expose what was happening. Maxwell found it difficult to remove that person as a trustee, so he sacked him. He removed the problem in that way. That may or may not be a rare happening, but it is important that the law did not adequately protect the individual, as the Select Committee on Social Security so graphically highlighted.

By its existence, the Bill accepts that there will be occasional conflict between bad or dishonest employers and employees, and assigns a special role to the member trustees in preventing abuse. Trustees are expected to be the second line of defence for scheme members. The Secretary of State made that clear on Second Reading. However, when trustees act on behalf of scheme members they will be in an extremely vulnerable position without additional employee protection.

The Government argue that few member trustees will have less than the two years of service needed to bring them under the ordinary employment rules. That is the point that the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Sir. A. Bowden) raised. I accept that that is the position, because most trustees are long-standing employees who are respected by the rest of the work force. That tends to be the position that prevails when it comes to selecting and appointing member trustees.

But in a new company, where a new scheme is being set up, where there has been an upheaval within a company that has led to a complete turnover in posts, or in a small company, there may well be trustees with less than two years of service. Those trustees will need protection. There will be occasions—they may be rare—when the trustees have less than two years of service and so will not be protected by the law if they are victimised or bullied by their employer and subsequently dismissed.

The new clause is designed to protect employer-nominated trustees as well as member nominees. In many instances, senior managers could be appointed as employer-based trustees. Those trustees, as employees of the company, could find themselves in a difficult situation with, for example, the finance director. Acting in their proper function of trustees, they could put themselves in difficulties. It is important that the clause deals not only with employee-nominated trustees but with employer-nominated trustees as well.

I agree that the situations to which I have drawn attention would undoubtedly be rare. It cannot be argued, therefore, that industrial tribunals will be clogged by the cases that stem from them. Many crimes are rare, but that does not make them any the less reprehensible and any less illegal.

I would welcome the support of the hon. Member for Kemptown, who has added his name to the clause. I know that he added his name to new clause 4 and then expressed some reservations. I hope that I have not scared him off on new clause 5, as we possibly did when dealing with new clause 4, and that he will decide that he can support the arguments that I have advanced.

I welcome the anticipated support of the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern), who, in tabling comprehensive amendments, is, I guess, seeking the same objectives. I hope that the Minister—perhaps I should refer to him as the Secretary of State. As I understand it, this will be his swan song in his present capacity. I have already commented on his new appointment. Other hon. Members may wish to make their comments during the debate, or perhaps on Third Reading.

I hope that the new Secretary of State for Wales, but the Minister in the context of this debate, will take on board the arguments that will be advanced in favour of the new clause, which I commend to the House.

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)

First, I join the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) on his appointment to the Cabinet. We shall miss him greatly during our debates on these matters, on which he has shown considerable expertise.

I do not intend to detain the House for long. As the hon. Gentleman anticipated, many of the arguments that I would advance in moving new clause 24 and the related amendments would be identical to the arguments that he has rehearsed.

There is a clear need for further legislation. It would be pointless for the House to create a framework of law and regulations to bolster the independence of trustees of pension schemes if there were to remain among those seeking or accepting appointment as trustees the fear that they might be subject to any form of victimisation in carrying on the proper duties of their office.

Both new clauses 24 and 25 are about providing protection to ensure that the fear of victimisation is removed. They are not tabled on the basis that they will be needed to cope with victimisation. In the majority of pension schemes, the relationship between the employer and the trustees will be, as it has always been, a fair and proper one.

The new clauses are designed to do deal with that tiny minority of cases, not where undue pressure is put on, but where the nominated trustee fears that if he acts properly, he may come under such pressure. The House has previously given similar rights to nominated health and safety officers in companies, and I believe that it is entirely proper that we should do the same for nominated trustees.

If my right hon. Friend is moved to accept the proposals in the new clauses—I have some feeling from the Committee debates that he may well be inclined to—it is merely a question of whether he has moved more towards new clause 5 or new clause 24. Clearly, the differences between the new clauses and the related amendments are much more a matter for argument between lawyers than argument across the Floor. I can say only that I hope that my right hon. Friend will decide that my lawyers are bigger and better than his lawyers and recommend the adoption of new clause 24.

7 pm

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

I join in the congratulations to the new Secretary of State for Wales. I hope that he quickly learns the words of "Land of my Fathers" better than his predecessor. At last I have told a joke that the Minister has laughed at. In Committee, I missed the punch line of one of the better jokes of my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram).

In yesterday's debate, some important points were made about the role of pensioner trustees. One of the most powerful arguments used by several hon. Members was derived from page 261 of Professor Goode's report, where, in respect of pensioner trustees, he states: In addition, they are thought to be less susceptible to some of the pressures that face active members. That argument was rejected last night, but the evidence from the Goode inquiry and the arguments of several hon. Members during last night's debate are important in the context of the new clause.

If, as Professor Goode and hon. Members on both sides of the House believe, it is true that pensioner trustees are less susceptible to pressure, clearly the reverse must also be the case: active members are in a position where employers could lean upon them. Indeed, the Confederation of Occupational Pensioner Associations has set that out in a leaflet that it circulated to hon. Members.

It must be a straightforward and clear principle that, when an employee becomes a trustee, he or she has direct responsibility for that trust. That responsibility must at all times be free of any pressure from the employer, for whatever reason. The only way that we can achieve that is to build it formally into statute.

I will not delve into the detail of the lengthy new clause 24, tabled by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern), but say only that the principle that he is seeking to pursue is precisely the same as that sought by my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride. I hope that the Government recognise the simple philosophy, which was explored in Committee in slightly different form and reappeared last night in a slightly tangential debate, to which we have returned in black and white terms this evening. The employee must be protected at all times. I urge hon. Members to accept the spirit of the new clause to bring that about.

Mrs. Jane Kennedy (Liverpool, Broadgreen)

I add my congratulations to the now right hon. Gentleman, the new Secretary of State for Wales. I wish him success in his new position, and I am sure that his unfailing courtesy will stand him in good stead in the short time that his party will remain in government.

I shall deal with new clause 24, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) and which is entitled "Right not to suffer detriment in employment or be unfairly dismissed". Clause 16 allows for nomination and selection of trustees by members of the scheme. In Committee, we established that the term "member" could mean active members—in other words, employees—pensioner members or, indeed, deferred members.

The new clause would offer protection to member trustees who are selected from the work force. The trustees selected may come from any level of the work force. It is quite possible that trustees may also be trade union or health and safety representatives. Their work as trustees will without doubt take them away from their workplace. They will need to attend meetings of the board of trustees. Most importantly, they will need to attend training sessions if they are to perform their function properly.

Paragraph 9(ii) of the fourth report of the Social Security Committee states: We believe that particular emphasis should be placed upon instructing trustees they are there to act as independent guardians of the trust and not as representatives of the employers, employees or pensioners … For their part, employers will have to accept that trustees will require adequate assistance to attend training courses as well as meetings. While the principle of the important role that trustees have to play has been accepted by the Government, the consequences of the decision to invest new powers and responsibilities in the trustees has still not, in my view, been sufficiently well thought through. That is why I welcome the new clause. It gives us an opportunity to press the Government one more time to take our arguments on board.

Employers will be required to allow for selection of member trustees, some of whom will be their own employees. Many occupational schemes already have such employee trustees, and their experience has been that such trustees perform diligently. Companies that have resisted that, and which are now having it forced upon them, might find ways of placing obstacles in the path of employee trustees performing their proper duties.

A member trustee drawn from the workplace will be called upon to leave the workplace from time to time, and in so doing, interrupt the functioning of the workplace. They may well need to be replaced by another employee to ensure that their function carries on and that work is progressed.

If employees are on performance-related pay, they stand to lose bonus pay unless they are fully compensated. The same applies to shift workers who receive premium rates of pay for unsocial hours of work. Further, the team of workers left behind may be disadvantaged, and may require the employer to take steps to ensure that they do not lose because of the activity of the trustee. Failure to act to address that range of problems would lead to dissatisfaction, which might lead to pressure being brought to bear on the trustee by his or her workmates, let alone an employer minded to undermine the work of the trustee.

Good employers, who have the best interests of pension schemes at heart, will take steps to remedy the problems that I have outlined, but at no little cost to them. Employers who take less care, or who are facing financial difficulties for whatever reason, may not take the steps necessary to address those problems.

The trustees may then find themselves out of pocket or faced with choices over whether, for example, to forgo opportunities for promotion. They may even, on occasion, have to choose between leaving the workplace at an inopportune moment to attend to business relating to the pension scheme and staying in work, thereby failing to fulfil their role as trustees.

If a trustee also has the role as shop steward or health and safety representative, he is protected by statute from discrimination and has the right not to suffer detriment. New clause 5 and the new clause and amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West correct that failing, and bring trustees under the same statutory protection as other employee representatives.

I look forward to hearing the Government's response but, in view of experience on the Bill, I am not sure that they will have the wisdom and foresight to adopt either of the new clauses or any of the amendments.

Sir Andrew Bowden

I, too, warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on his appointment. I believe that the people of Wales will soon realise that they have a very able and dedicated Secretary of State.

New clause 5 is important, because it protects people from a minority of employers who inevitably try to exploit their power. Pressure can be applied to an employee trustee in various ways. It can be done subtly and relate to an employee's promotion prospects or salary increases. The word can be carefully spread, so that, if a trustee does something that displeases key people, there could be repercussions. Those of us who have worked in industry—I admit that it is a long time since I did—will be aware of the problem.

After I completed my national service in the late 1940s, I went to a large company—it is not fair to name it, because I am sure that it is wholly different today—which was running a management trainee scheme. The scheme was due to last for some six or seven years, and was quite an innovation at the time. Even as far back as the 1950s, I was active in politics in my spare time. I wanted to stand as a candidate for the old London county council in the constituency of Deptford and fight the very distinguished man who represented that seat. He was the leader of the council, Sir Joseph Hayward.

As a matter of courtesy, I informed my employers of my intention. I said that I had no prospect of being elected, but that I wanted to gain the experience of contesting a parliamentary-sized seat in the LCC. I explained that it would involve a considerable amount of time in the evenings and at the weekend, but that it would not affect my duties and responsibilities as an employee.

It quickly came home to me, in various relatively subtle ways—and some perhaps not so subtle ways—that, if I wanted to progress in the company, I should not meddle in politics, because business and politics did not mix. I understood that I had to dedicate myself seven days a week, flat out, to the company if I wanted to join the senior ranks. I do not think that that would happen today in a political context, because more companies recognise that it is useful to have among their employees people of all political persuasions who are active outside work.

Pressure can, however, be applied in subtle ways which are extremely difficult to counter. There is therefore a strong case for enshrining in law the maximum protection for employee trustees. Subject to what my right hon. Friend may have to say, I am minded to support the new clause.

Madam Speaker

Who is next? The Minister?

7.15 pm
The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People (Mr. William Hague)

I was momentarily surprised by the absence of other hon. Members wishing to speak.

I thank the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) and all the other hon. Members and my hon. Friends for their good wishes. If I can enjoy my new appointment—I certainly intend to—as much as I have enjoyed this portfolio and as much as I have enjoyed debating this particular Bill, it will be very rewarding indeed. I have immensely enjoyed the company of all the hon. Members and my hon. Friends with whom I have debated the Bill.

The new clause tabled by the Opposition, and the new clause and the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern), all have the same objective, as became clear in the debate. They would protect employee pension scheme trustees against victimisation by their employers. They aim to do that by giving those employees a right to complain to an industrial tribunal if they are dismissed or subjected to any other adverse treatment in connection with their duties as trustees. No qualifying length of service, hours of work or age thresholds would apply.

As the House may be aware—those hon. Members present certainly are, because we have discussed these matters before, and they have been discussed in another place—the Government have resisted the introduction of such protection. Our concern has been to avoid adding unnecessarily to the legislative burdens on business.

We have taken the view that virtually all employee trustees would have the two years' continuous service necessary to entitle them to make an ordinary unfair dismissal complaint. That was the point about which my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Sir A. Bowden) asked the hon. Member for East Kilbride earlier in our proceedings.

The two-year qualifying period is a key element of our policy of sensible deregulation of employment protection, and we remain firmly committed to ensuring that a proper balance is struck between employees' rights and employers' costs.

The Government have always accepted that there are specific types of dismissal which are so unacceptable and contrary to public policy that the employees involved should be entitled to make an industrial tribunal complaint without first having to satisfy the usual length of service and other qualifying criteria. That category must be drawn narrowly, or the benefits of protection will be outweighed by the loss of job opportunities that the legislative burden would cause.

Mr. Miller

Does the Minister agree that action short of dismissal should be included in the category of actions that he regards as unacceptable?

Mr. Hague

I must address my remarks to the specific new clause. The hon. Gentleman may take some pleasure in what I am about to say. I have listened to the views expressed in this debate as well as those put forward in another place. In the light of the various arguments, the Government have been persuaded that it is indeed a sphere in which special protection should apply.

Employment legislation already provides special protection for trade union and health and safety representatives. The new clauses and the amendments that we are considering must be seen in the light of that existing legislation. I therefore accept that dismissal on the grounds of carrying out or proposing to carry out functions as an employee trustee should fall into that special narrow category.

Protection against detrimental action short of dismissal goes hand in hand with the special protection against dismissal enjoyed by trade union and health and safety representatives. It is therefore only right that it should do so in this case, too. I believe that that deals adequately with the point raised by the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller). I may be accused of agreeing to this in the spirit of demob abandon, but I am pleased that, as we come to the end of our proceedings, we may be able to achieve some cross-party agreement.

Of the suggested proposals, I prefer those tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West.

Mr. Ingram

I am not surprised.

Mr. Hague

They are drafted in terms that are similar to those of the provisions of the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993, through which the Government introduced the analogous protection for health and safety representatives. They also provide for remedies identical to those that are available to such representatives, which include the possibility of special awards of compensation, and interim relief in dismissal cases.

New clause 5 would not deal with a number of important consequential matters, including remedies, and is, I believe, flawed in its drafting, in that it refers to clause 157(1) of the 1992 Act whereas it should refer to clause 152, just to take up a pedantic point.

Although I support the intention of both new clauses, I intend to support new clause 24, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West, and hope that Opposition Members will feel able to withdraw their new clause.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mrs. Kennedy) doubted whether I would have the wisdom and foresight to accept these new clauses and amendments. I hope that she will readily agree that wisdom and foresight are on display in great quantity this evening.

We have consistently made clear our belief that victimisation of employee pension scheme trustees for carrying out their functions as trustees would be totally reprehensible. We are confident that very few employers would ever be tempted to act in such an irresponsible manner, but the amendments will nevertheless ensure that employee trustees can carry out their important duties confident in the knowledge that they have the protection, afforded in these provisions, to deter unwarranted retaliation by their employer.

I am happy to recommend new clause 24 and the associated amendments to the House.

Mr. Ingram

That is most welcome. There has clearly been substantial movement on the part of the Government, obviously because of the weight of arguments that have been advanced by Opposition Members in the House and in Committee, and because of the valuable contribution that was made by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern). I think that I heard him correctly when he said that his lawyers were bigger and better than ours.

Clearly, those people are capable of writing bigger clauses and amendments, and obviously the Minister thinks that they are better, but just let me tell him, however, that one of the lawyers who was involved in drafting new clause 5 was my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden, and lawyers do not come any bigger or better than him.

I still feel that new clause 5 could be argued as being marginally better, but I have listened carefully to what the Minister has said and take on board some of the points that he made, notwithstanding the typographical error in new clause 5. I am grateful that he has accepted the weight of the argument that has been advanced. I am sure that employee pension scheme trustees, and trustees generally, will warmly welcome the protection that is afforded them. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Forward to