HL Deb 25 April 1989 vol 506 cc1150-1

2.52 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their policy towards the future activity of the pilots' national pension fund following the implementation of the Pilotage Act 1987.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, under the Pilotage Act 1987 (Pilots' National Pension Fund) Order 1987 the responsibility for the management of the fund was placed on the PNPF Trust Company Limited.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, does the Minister recall that during the passage of the Bill both in your Lordships' House and in another place Ministers in both Houses—I understand the Prime Minister also replied to this point—are on record as saying that the interests of the pilots involved in this exercise would receive the utmost consideration? It would appear as the situation has developed that that is not the case. Will the Minister therefore look into the situation to see whether assistance can be given towards resolving any disputes that may arise?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the PNPF Trust Company Limited was established jointly by the port authorities and the pilots. Its constitution provides for equal representation of both among the trustee directors of the company and for a negotiating forum composed of representatives of the port authorities and pilots to decide questions of policy. This seems to be a fair arrangement which was freely entered into by both ports and pilots.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, despite what the Minister has said, is it not the case that the pilots voluntarily agreed that some £15 million from their pension fund should be used for retiring pilots to ensure the smooth passage of the re-organisation under the terms of the Pilotage Act and that the negotiating forum to which the Minister referred did not come into effect until 1st October 1988? My second supplementary question arises from the fact that the ports are now suggesting that half the balance that was present at the end of December 1987—which was long before the new forum took effect—is to be used not to improve pensions and other benefits but to cut contributions. Does the Minister think that it is fit and proper that the ports should adopt this attitude, as they were in no way responsible for building up the balance of £26 million?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, as I said, the arrangements are now for the port authorities and the pilots. This is clearly a matter to be resolved in the negotiating forum of port authorities and pilots which was set up under the terms of the constitution of the PNPF Trust Company Limited and by the trustee directors. I have no doubt that the pilots will be able to put their case in that forum, which is the correct place in which to put it.