HL Deb 12 April 1973 vol 341 cc791-807

After Clause 8, insert the following new clause:

Judicial pensions (increase of widow's and children's pensions)

".—(1) The annual amount of the widow's pension that may be granted under or by virtue of the Administration of Justice (Pensions) Act 1950 wholly or partly in respect of relevant service after the passing of this Act, and the annual amount of the children's pension that may be so granted, shall be increased in accordance with this section; and where the widow's pension or children's pension (if any) that may be granted in respect of a person's relevant service is so increased, there shall be made towards the cost of the liability therefor such contributions (in lieu of or in addition to that required by section 8 of the Act of 1950) as may be prescribed, in the form either of a reduction or further reduction of the lump sum pension benefit payable in respect of that service or of deductions from the salaries so payable or partly in one of those forms and partly in the other.

(2) In the case of pensions attributable wholly to relevant service after the passing of this Act,—

  1. (a) the annual amount of a widow's pension may be one-half of the annual amount of the personal pension of the deceased; and
  2. (b) subject to section 7(4) of the Act of 1950 (which makes provision for the case of a widow remarrying), the annual amount of a children's pension, while there is only one person for whose benefit it can enure, may amount—
    1. (i) where the deceased was a man who left a widow and she is still alive, to one-quarter of the annual amount of the personal pension; and
    2. (ii) in any other case, to one-third of the annual amount of the personal pension;
and while there are two or more persons for whose benefit it can enure, may amount to twice the figure given by whichever is applicable of subparagraphs (i) and (ii) above.

In section 7(4) of the Act of 1950 the reference to subsection (2) of that section shall include paragraph (b)(ii) of this subsection.

(3) Subject to subsection (4) below, in the case of pensions payable partly in respect of relevant service after the passing of this Act but not attributable wholly to that service, the annual value of the widow's pension or children's pension that may be granted shall be determined by reference to the proportions which the relevant service before and after that time bear to the whole of the relevant service, and shall be the amount obtained by adding—

  1. (a) the part proportionate to the service before that time of the annual amount of the pension that might have been granted if this section had not been passed; and
  2. (b) the part proportionate to the service after that time of the annual amount of the pension that might have been granted if this section had always had effect.

(4) In relation to persons serving at the passing of this Act provision may be made by regulations whereby, subject to any prescribed conditions, an election may be made by or with respect to a person—

  1. (a) that subsection (2) above shall apply to him as if the whole of his relevant service were service after the passing of this Act, and subsection (3) shall not apply;
  2. (b) that subsections (1) to (3) above shall not apply to him, and the Act of 1950 shall apply as if this section had not been passed;
  3. 793
  4. (c) in the case of a person who elected under section 11(1) or (2) of the Act of 1950 for his eligibility for pension not to satisfy the conditions for the grant of a widow's or children's pension, that the election under that section shall be revoked.

(5) Where a person's relevant service is partly before and partly after the passing of this Act, then for the purposes of this section any widow's or children's pension payable in respect of that service is to be regarded as attributable wholly to the service after that time if the service before that time does not add to the annual rate of the personal pension, and for purposes of subsection (3) there shall he left out of account so much (if any) of the service before that time as does not add to the annual amount of the personal pension.

(6) Regulations made for purposes of this section may make provision for consequential or incidental matters, including provision excluding or modifying the operation of any enactments passed before this Act; and in particular any regulations providing for contributions by deduction from salary may make consequential provisions as to sections 10 and 11 of the Act of 1950 and any other enactment referring or relating to lump sums payable under that Act.

(7) Regulations for purposes of this section may be made, with the concurrence of the Minister for the Civil Service, by the Lord Chancellor or, in relation to pensions for service in offices existing only in Scotland, by the Secretary of State; and the power to make regulations for purposes of this section shall he exercisable by statutory instrument, which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(8) The foregoing provisions of this section shall have effect in relation to the enactments mentioned in the Schedule (Increase of certain widow's and children's pensions in Northern Ireland) to this Act as they have effect in relation to the Act of 1950, but subject to the adaptations provided for by that Schedule; and provision corresponding to that which is made by subsections (1) and (3) above, or which may be made by regulations under this section for purposes of those subsections may, in relation to the pension benefits of any resident magistrate or county court registrar included in Schedule 5 to the Superannuation (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 (Persons remaining subject to the Superannuation Acts (Northern Ireland) 1967 and 1969), be made by order of the Ministry of Finance for Northern Ireland.

For the purposes of section 6 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 this subsection shall be deemed to have been passed before the appointed day within the meaning of that section.

(9) In this section—

  1. (a) "the Act of 1950" means the Administration of Justice (Pensions) Act 1950;
  2. (b) "prescribed" means prescribed by regulations made for purposes of this section."


My Lords, if we may resume this now dif- ferent subject which I was engaged upon when the Statement was made, I now rise to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said second Amendment.

My Lords, as your Lordships will see from the list of Amendments, this is a very formidable undertaking, and like all questions relating to pensions it is both extremely complicated and rather esoteric. I will, therefore, try to simplify the problem in order that the House may understand what we are about. If I do over-simplify, I can see a number of my noble and learned friends on the Cross Benches who will keep me more or less on the strait and narrow path. But I do not want to detain the House longer than is absolutely necessary for the purpose of explaining what this Amendment is really about. I now proceed to do so.

My Lords, your Lordships will remember that on Second Reading my noble and learned friend Lord Wilberforce raised the question of judges' pensions. He said this was a matter of some urgency and was causing some anxiety among the judges. On Second Reading, in reply, I made what I believe I described, perhaps rather colloquially, as "encouraging poises". I also told my noble and learned friend that there was in process a total review of judges' pensions. The Government at that stage were disposed to await the result of that general review before acting in the matter.

Inquiries disclosed the fact that it was obviously impossible to use this legislative opportunity to introduce a total reform of judges' pensions; it was much too wide a subject. When you see what a small subject is contained in this very long Amendment, I think your Lordships will agree that that must necessarily be so. But what the inquiry really disclosed was that judges were concerned about their widows' and children's pensions, under the prevailing schemes for which—which are governed by the Act of 1950—they were relatively less well placed than the Civil Service whose widows' and children's pensisons were governed by the Superannuation Act, 1972. Perhaps at this stage I ought to warn your Lordships—because I had forgotten to do so—that I have an interest in this matter because I fancy my own pension may be affected by what I am going to say. However, I do not think it has affected my judgment in the matter, and I do not think it will cost the public anything, for the reasons which I shall give.

The basic difference between the civil servant's widow's pension under the Act of 1972—and I am not going to talk separately about children because their pensions will be determined on a rather complicated formula and really derive in origin from the level of the widow's pension, and therefore they are not really a separate subject, unless I am asked to deal with the details of it—and the judge's widow's pension was that when a judge died his widow got a third of the judge's retirement pension whereas when the civil servant died his widow got a half of the civil servant's retirement pension; and the whole object of this very long Amendment really can be put down in a single sentence or two by saying that we are trying to put the judges' widows' pensions and the derivative children's pensions on the same level in relation to the judges' retirement pensions as civil servants' widows' and children's pensions are in relation to the civil servants' retirement pensions. In other words, we are lifting it from a third to a half. As one gets nothing for nothing in this world, the price to be paid is that you pay a bigger contribution, either out of the lump sum which you get on retirement or out of your salary while you are in service; so that it will not cost the public money, or not any substantial sum of money. That is the basis of what we are trying to do, and that is the object of the scheme.

Now quite obviously there will be transitional provisions. Do the judges want the scheme? I shall proceed to deal with this question. In the first place, I should like to say that owing to the time factor we have not been able to consult the judges personally, or through their various trade union-like organisations, as much as we should have liked. We have told them what we had in mind—we were of course aware of their general feeling on this subect—and we have had a number of letters in appreciation of what we are proposing, but there has not been the fullest consultation because there was not time if we were to make use of this legislative oppor- tunity; and that was really what my noble and learned friend Lord Wilberforce was asking me to do on Second Reading. Broadly speaking, we are giving those judges who are now in service an option. Those who will be in service, of course, will take service on the new terms, which will then be known, but those in service will be given an option. They can contract out of this business altogether if they do not like it. In other words, nobody need have his position altered at all unless he wants it. That is the first option.

Secondly, he can contract into the new business straight away, but then he will have to pay an extra contribution over and above what he would pay if he were coming into the scheme for the first time as a new judge. Thirdly, he can take the table d'hôte; and the table d'hôte interim arrangement is set out in subsection (3) of the new clause. That, broadly speaking, means that while in service he will pay a little more and his widow will get a little more, but there is a formula set down by which this halfway house, if it is a halfway house—this part-way house—is arrived at, and your Lordships will see that in subsection (3) of the Amendment. Basically speaking, all pensions schemes, despite the great length of this Amendment, are, as I say, both complicated and esoteric, and for that reason the scheme has to be an enabling scheme, to enable it to be formulated in detail and to be brought into effect by regulations. But this, I think, is the situation which I should like to disclose to noble Lords so that they can form their judgment upon that which we have proposed. I shall naturally be particularly interested to know (as it was done in a sense at his instance) what my noble and learned friend Lord Wilberforce thinks; but it is the best we can do in the time, and I hope it will be acceptable both to the House and to the judicial profession.

I should have added that there is a fourth option of a particularly esoteric kind. A judge who opted out of the scheme of 1950 is given a peculiar option of his own. I believe that in the entire Judiciary there are either one or two such persons, but they are provided for separately as the last option; I think in subsection (4). I hope that with that explanation I can move that this House doth agree with the Amendment. I shall, of course, try to answer any of the complicated questions which quite certainly do arise on any form of pensions scheme. My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that I may take up just a few moments of your Lordships' time in order to thank the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for the trouble he has taken over this Amendment. As he himself told your Lordships, when the Bill was before this House on its introduction I ventured to raise this matter of the pensions of judges' widows, and I had then to be satisfied with what the noble and learned Lord himself described as "encouraging noises". Since then the encouraging noises have been transmuted into this new Clause 8, some two and a half pages of vintage Treasury drafting, and I really am most sincerely grateful to the noble and learned Lord and to the officers of his Department for having worked this out so completely in a comparatively short time. I know it must have involved a great deal of work, and I think we ought all to be grateful and appreciative for the trouble that they have taken.

My Lords, I have done my best to go through this Amendment and to compare these provisions as best I can with the Civil Service provisions. As the noble and learned Lord has said, they are very complicated, but I have had a good deal of assistance from the noble and learned Lord's Department and I have looked at the Civil Service booklet which tells one what one may expect by way of regulation; and though it is impossible to cover every possible detail—the case of judges in Northern Ireland, the case of women judges and their husbands and children, and all the various options and variations that there may be—I for my part am quite satisfied that within the existing framework this is the very best that can be done, and that it represents a genuine and helpful step towards bringing the pensions of the widows and dependants of judges into line with those of the public service generally—and that, of course, is the objective.

My Lords, I hope it will not be thought ungracious on my part—and perhaps the noble and learned Lord may even agree with me—if I say that while one welcomes this advance and the detailed thought that has gone into it, one would welcome still more the arrival of the time when one can dispense with these very complicated provisions (the numerous options which have to be offered to people, and all the provisions about contributions, clawbacks and so on) which are necessary in this world and which even to educated people such as civil servants, who are far more expert in these matters than judges can ever hope to be, have to be explained in an elaborate booklet of some 33 pages.

One may then be able to move from this system to one more simple and more direct which would recognise a principle which is not a very difficult principle and not a very elaborate principle; namely, that the widows of persons in the public service should automatically be entitled to one-half the pension previously payable to their husbands. I am always amazed that those who fight for women's rights have so long accepted the position where the widows of public servants have been treated in this country in a markedly inferior way to those in comparable situations in Europe, America, Australia and everywhere.

There is a simple objective which we are moving towards slowly and through all these elaborate clauses which one day one might hope could be accepted without qualification as an automatic right. However, that is the dawn of a future yet to come. Meanwhile, I repeat that this represents a valuable step and I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for having taken it. Doubtless when it is worked out with regulations, as it has to be (and we do not know yet exactly what the figures are going to be) this will represent a good step and will bring the pension of judges pretty well into line with the pensions of those in the public service. That is obviously a good thing and it was the objective of my intervention at an earlier stage of the Bill. I am happy to support this particular Amendment.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

  1. COMMONS AMENDMENT 462 words
  2. cc800-2
  3. COMMONS AMENDMENT 862 words
  4. cc802-3
  5. COMMONS AMENDMENT 346 words
  6. cc803-4
  7. COMMONS AMENDMENT 355 words
  8. c804
  10. c804
  11. COMMONS AMENDMENT 81 words
  12. cc804-5
  14. cc805-6
  15. COMMONS AMENDMENT 602 words
  16. cc806-7
  17. COMMONS AMENDMENT 136 words
  18. c807
  19. COMMONS AMENDMENT 151 words