Lord ORR EWING
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, while the pay policy continues, they will so curtail pension increases in the public sector that increases are no larger than pay increases allowed to those who continue to work.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Peart)
My Lords, I said on 15th December 1976 that we would have to look very carefully at index-linked pensions. There is nothing that I can usefully add at this stage.
§ Lord ORR-EWING
My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that there does seem to be some unfairness in this, in that those who are continuing to work on behalf of our nation are very strictly limited in the increases that they can get, while others who have, either of their own will or with the encouragement of the Government, retired, can get very substantial increases? At this juncture in our economic position, this does not seem quite just and fair.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord. When one compares the situation with what happens in the private sector, there is no unfairness here.
Lord PAGET of NORTHAMPTON
My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that, if we start breaking our contracts with our public servants at a point when they are no longer in a position to resist us, we are starting a very dangerous precedent indeed?
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, is my noble friend aware—especially in view of the kindly supplementary question put by my noble friend below the gangway—that the dynamisation of pensions was done out of fairness to the civil servants by the Heath Government, and it was because the civil servants at that time were so badly treated? I concur completely with the supplementary question which has been put.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, would my noble friend not consider that, introducing the principle of justice into the concept implicit in this Question, he could perhaps raise a special fund by charging 100 per cent, on the increase in the value of shares, particularly when they increase as a result of a takeover bid?
§ Lord ORR-EWING
My Lords, in his first Answer the noble Lord said that he had undertaken to consider this matter. I rather gather from his further answers that he has already made up his mind; or is it still under consideration?
Viscount ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, is it not clear that this way of treating pensions was entirely reasonable at a time when inflation was not so great, but this Government had no idea of the sort of mess they were going into and that is why it was allowed to go on?