§ 11.10 a.m.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution):
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD WINDLESHAM)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The main purpose of the Bill is to provide supplements for Public Service pensioners whose pensions on award have 924 been affected by Stages 1 and 2, or only by Stage 2, of the counter-inflation policy. The Bill also makes four amendments to the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971 which are not related to these supplements. This is an agreed measure which will bring benefits to about 100,000 public servants who retired in 1973, or who retire this year or, in one or two cases, 1975. They include teachers, police, fire service officers, civil servants, local government and National Health Service officials.
I am grateful to the Opposition for facilitating the passage of this Bill before Prorogation. It will be of very great benefit to substantial numbers of people at the end of their period of service to the public. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, it is a pleasure to thank and, for once, to congratulate the Government on this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has sustained the high standard of good relations in these matters with the Civil Service unions. It is a fact that one of the inequitable consequences of a pay freeze is that, whereas those still in service can catch up, pensioners lose out for ever. The same problem existed during the days when I occupied the post that the noble Lord now holds. This Bill is a simple piece of justice which, among other things, reflects the excellence of the Whitley Council system and the techniques for consultation within the Public Service. Since public servants are always apt to fall behind in these matters, I certainly very much welcome this Bill.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I should like from these Benches to welcome this Bill and its acceleration through Parliament. The Government have taken exactly the right decision. It is a measure which will affect quite a number of people. But this is a problem which is not only arising with Public Service pensions; it is arising in a much wider field. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, could say whether this problem can be dealt with under the terms of this Bill, or in any other way, so far as people outside the Public Service are concerned?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, may I thank both noble Lords for the 925 welcome they have given to this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, asked about the effect on private sector pensions. In bringing these proposals before Parliament, the Government have been conscious of the fact that the same problem has affected the private sector as well. We do not believe that the Government should take action for the public services which cannot be followed in the private sector. Consequently, the Inland Revenue are making changes in their Code which regulates occupational pension schemes to enable those responsible for such schemes in the private sector to consider making comparable changes. I cannot, of course, predict how many of them will wish to make such changes. The change in the Inland Revenue Code will also enable the nationalised industries to make similar provision for their pensioners if they wish to do so.
Since the noble Lord, Lord Byers, was kind enough to give me notice that he wanted to raise this matter this morning, I have made some further inquiries and I understand that the Inland Revenue have already begun consultations with occupational pension interests in the private sector, with a view to making the necessary change in their rules at an early date. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, is himself closely concerned with occupational pensions, and if he would like more detailed information I should be happy to arrange for him to be put in touch with the appropriate Inland Revenue officials.
On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.