HL Deb 11 October 1999 vol 605 cc169-82

(". In section 44(4) of the Contributions and Benefits Act, for "£66.75" there shall be substituted "£75".").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 53 has been grouped with Amendment No. 55. The amendments represent two main strands of policy among those of us who wish to destroy the dependency culture in this country and encourage people to stand on their own feet. We heard a most impressive speech by Lord Morris on the amendment just debated. We were all in broad agreement with the amendment and the sentiments that he expressed. But we would also agree that in analysing poverty a very important factor is low self-esteem. I believe that the Minister also agrees with that; indeed, she hinted at it.

Therefore, what we seek to do in Amendment 53 is to embody the Government's own measurement of need—£75 a week for a single pensioner—in a basic state pension as of right. This is designed to remove from applicants the demeaning business of explaining every scrap of income and having it analysed, poured over and generally suspected until the facts have been fully established. The Government have themselves established a measurement of need which is the £75 a week for a single pensioner embodied in the minimum income guarantee.

So the Government have said, "If we are to give people enough to keep them out of need, this is the amount we should pay". But at the same time they say that all their spending must be targeted: that only the poorest pensioners should receive this sum. I found it an interesting contrast with what the Government say on other aspects of their policy. For instance, I am the first warmly to applaud the Government on what they are doing about child benefit. As the Minister rightly said, it is being increased to a spectacular degree. The Government have resisted siren voices which said that it should be taxed or means tested. "No", say the Government, "that shall be a child's right". Good. But it is a little difficult to reconcile that with other government statements about the need for targeting.

Let us consider the National Health Service. Again I applaud the Government for giving it such a high priority in their future public spending. But the whole essence of the health service is that it is the right of citizens; there is no targeting. Imagine what would happen to the ethic of the health service if it were to be means tested. We all know that it would undermine health for people to have to rely on what they have put into private insurance before they could be sure what they would get out. No: we say that the health service is the right of people as citizens; and that surely is the best way to establish social inclusion.

We have all expressed agreement about the need to attack poverty and to have definitions which enable us to meet need. But suddenly the Government say, "This sum shall not be the pensioners' as of right even though they have contributed towards it all their lives". I believe that that gulf is immensely dangerous for the Government's whole strategy. If they are to sell the need for targeting—"We must spend all our resources on the poorest people"—it is eating away at the ethic underlying their excellent policies on child benefit and the NHS. I warn the Government that there are dangers in that.

Amendment No. 53 seeks to provide that the basic state pension shall be raised to the Government's own measurement of need: £75 a week for a single pensioner instead of the £66.75 he or she receives at present. I make two points. First, it can be afforded. I had a little exchange of views over this earlier with the Minister. The Government Actuary's recent report on the uprating of benefits indicates that there is a margin above the prudent safety level which he said must be observed in the fund if all future demands are to be met. It would cost £3.8 billion to adopt Amendment No. 53. But the Government Actuary has said that there is something like £5.9 billion in the National Insurance Fund above the prudent level which the Government. Actuary said must be observed at all times.

At this hour of the night or morning, wherever we are at, we do not want to start jousting about elaborate figures. However, after an exchange of detailed correspondence, the Minister must now recognise that the figures we quoted from the Government Actuary's report are right.

I want to make a second point about the £75 as of right. It is the contributory pension. People have paid in what they have been asked to pay to balance the national insurance fund. The £75 is an extremely modest sum because if the earnings link for the uprating of the basic state pension, which the Labour Government of 1974 introduced, had not been immediately abolished by Lady Thatcher coming into power, the single pensioner's basic state pension would not be just £75 a week, it would be £93.

That earnings-related pension had to be adjusted by the Government Actuary in terms of the contributions needed to cover it. If that had been done and had been accepted as a target and people had made the necessary contributions to cover it over the past years, it would be balancing itself now. It is not the pensioners' fault.

When I introduced SERPS, the earnings link and other pension improvements in that 1974 government, we had to put in our White Paper the Government Actuary's assessment of the cost and what figures would be needed in contributions to cover it. A substantial increase in contributions was necessary and I know that some people said, "Oh, good, they've got themselves into trouble now. People will never accept that". On the contrary; it was extremely acceptable. People are sensible if you tell them that what they want has to be paid for somehow and they had better face up to it.

So we are not making a wild demand. We are not asking for that lost ground to be recovered all at once. We are realists and we are reasonable. However, we say to the Government, "Look, what's the good of telling us that you're going to have an annual assessment of what really constitutes need, and in the mean time here is our assessment of need; £75 a week, and then deny that as the basis of the basic state pension?".

That merely means that instead of rolling back the tide of means-testing wherever possible, we are institutionalising it in our new pensions policy. In my view, that is one of the reasons why so many pensioners have been reluctant to take up the income support to which they are entitled. That annoys me a little bit and I am trying to be reasonable at this late hour. However, for the Minister to say, "Ah, but you see we have had these pilot schemes and we are discovering that one of the reasons why people are not taking up pensions is that they have got too much money, not too little; they have been saving and they want to hang on to that; they do not want it to be counted", and then for her to go on to say, "We fully agree that the Government must encourage thrift"; I am sorry, but I do not think it tallies.

As regards these pilot schemes, for the Minister to release titbits to us out of context is not right. These pilot schemes produced their reports in December last year. The Minister can trot out little bits of those reports, while we are ignorant of the context of the figures to which she refers. She owes it to us to let us have the analysis of all those reports of pilot schemes investigating why people do not claim Income Support to which they are entitled. We ought to have a proper evaluation of those reports placed before us.

I am told that it is now hoped that we may receive them this December. But, really, why take a year? Once again it is taking policy bit by bit and giving us a great spiel about why such a bit here is essential and not giving us the whole picture. I am sure that the Minister must deplore that long delay. It has not delayed the Government going ahead with some aspect of their pensions legislation. I believe that that legislation ought to be suspended until we have a more complete picture of what has influenced people and what we should be aiming for.

Amendment No. 55 calls for the restoration of the earnings link for the future uprating of pensions. If we do not do that, the gap between the benefits as of right and the means tested benefits is going to grow. The Government have said that in the longer term they are hoping to uprate the minimum income guarantee in line with earnings. But why do only that, while refusing to uprate the pension as of right on the same criteria? We are due, at any moment now, to have an announcement of the coming year's uprating. I heard a rumour—we were told it this week. If the Government insist that they are sticking by price indexing and if the basic pension to which people have contributed to get something as of right is to be uprated in line with the Retail Price Index—which I gather is up by about 1.1 per cent, while earnings have gone up by 4 per cent—then the basic state pensioner is going to fall behind in a society which is becoming increasingly comfortable.

If you take the figure of 1.1 per cent and work out the uprated increase, I believe it amounts to 72 pence, which—as some wit pointed out—is the price of a bag of peanuts. The resentment among pensioners will deepen, because they have their dignity. I do not believe that one can tackle poverty while riding roughshod over that dignity. I do not believe that targeting is the answer. People must of course contribute for what they receive, but it is government's job to alter the contributions so as to cover the needs of the National Insurance Fund. That is just, as the Government raise taxation to cover the cost of the National Health Service; just, as they have to spend money on increasing Child Benefit. Why should the pensioner be singled out for the indignity of targeting? I do not believe that either the financial poverty or that psychological poverty which keeps people down will be abolished by constantly extending the area of means testing. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, I speak for myself but I suspect also for almost every other Member of your Lordships' House here this evening in expressing my envy of the remarkable stamina in her 90th year of the noble Baroness, Lady Castle. Therefore, it is with regret that we are able to give her Amendments Nos. 53 and 55 only a rather limited degree of support.

We accept that the earnings link for the basic pension is not sustainable in the long run. We believe also that a blanket increase in the basic pension to a level of £75 will not directly help the poorest pensioners, because it just brings that amount up to the minimum income guarantee. Therefore, it follows that most of the extra money will go to those whose incomes are already above the minimum income guarantee.

Of course, it will relieve poor pensioners from the need to claim the minimum income guarantee, and we accept that that is indeed a significant benefit. In the long term, we hope that the problem will be dealt with by the government proposal for a second state pension, which will indeed lift many state pensions above the MIG level.

However, we believe that there is a better way in which, without giving an increase to all other pensioners whether or not they need it, many of the neediest pensioners could be taken more or less immediately out of the need to claim the minimum income guarantee: that is, we should target increases on older pensioners. That proposal has been made on many occasions by my honourable friend Professor Steven Webb in the House of Commons.

Older pensioners are those who are likely to have the greatest needs and, simultaneously, the lowest incomes. Therefore, we should like to see a substantial increase in the basic pension for pensioners at the age of 75 or 80 as opposed to the absolutely absurd increase of 25p per week which is now paid to 80 year-old pensioners. To that extent, we are glad to be able to support the principle behind the amendments moved so powerfully by the noble Baroness.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, perhaps I may add a few words to what my noble friend said about the earnings link. The removal of the earnings link and its replacement by a link to the retail price index has meant a decline in the relative value of the basic pension and consequent impoverishment of large numbers of today's pensioners. There is no doubt at all about that. That means that large numbers of them are dependent on income support, which is, of course, means tested.

Many who are entitled to it, estimated by the national pensioners convention at about 700,000, do not claim it, which has been referred to already by my noble friend, largely because older people in general particularly loathe and fear means testing. The problem with the Government's minimum income guarantee, to which the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, referred, is that that too will be means tested.

The Government seem desperately concerned that any increase in the basic state pension may go to people who, in their opinion, do not really need it. I presume that that means largely those who are already benefiting from occupational pension schemes. But many of those schemes were based on the assumption that they top up the basic state pension and so the state pension is frequently a necessary element in the pension provision of even those with an occupational pension.

Moreover, the really well-to-do will have any increase which comes to them taxed out of existence because taxes will be payable by people who are really well off. One cannot help feeling that state benefits are looked upon even by this Government as some form of charity. Contributory benefits are not charity. They are part of the social insurance scheme to which we have all contributed during our working lives. There is a right to benefit at the end of such a working life.

A return to the principle of the earnings link henceforth—we are not asking for it to be backdated—would at least give older people the right. which has been denied to them, of a basic level of living without the need to justify it by some form of means testing, which many regard as humiliating. We are talking about benefits for people of the wartime generation—people who made sacrifices and laid the basis for our present prosperity, and the future advances that we may make. They really do deserve better than to have to rely on means testing to provide them with a decent standard of living. I support Amendment No. 53 and, very much, Amendment No. 55.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Castle makes powerful arguments that will find support throughout the House, but Amendment No. 53 in particular does not answer the case of the growing divide between pensioners at the top in terms of their financial means and those at the bottom.

That gap between rich and poor has grown dramatically over the past 20 years. The income of the top one fifth of single pensioners has increased 76 per cent since 1979 and those in the bottom half—many of them women—saw their income grow only 28 per cent. I cannot agree that Amendment No. 53 answers that enormous and growing divide, which needs to be addressed. The amendment offers a blanket solution that does not address that growing divide.

1.15 a.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Castle, clearly explained that the purpose of Amendment No. 83 is to increase the basic state retirement pension to £75 per week, while the second amendment would allow for uprating each year in line with the growth in prices or earnings—whichever is the greater.

I cannot anticipate the Secretary of State. He is required by law to review the rate of retirement pension and other benefits each year. He will announce the outcome later this year in the usual way. I understand why the noble Baroness has again tabled these amendments, which she withdrew previously, but the key drawbacks remain—the huge costs of the increases and. as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart and my noble friend Lady Crawley, they would put extra money in the pockets of those who do not need it as opposed to those in greatest need.

This Government, with the devolved assemblies, are determined to tackle poverty and social exclusion. The gap between the richest and the poorest pensioners is widening. For both single pensioners and pensioner couples, the average income of the richest one fifth has increased twice as fast as the poorest one fifth in the past 17 years. In 1995/96, nearly one third of pensioners—around 3 million people—had household incomes in the top half of the overall income distribution for the population as a whole.

Recent research by Professor Robert Walker of Loughborough University was published in The Times in September. As he says, times have changed: A generation ago, the stereotype of the poverty-stricken pensioner was grounded in truth. Not so today. Some pensioners are very poor but most are not". He adds that the Government's problem is that public opinion—in this House as well as outside— has not caught up with the mass of changes that have occurred". He goes on to show that the average income of pensioners in real terms from 1979 to 1996 grew by 70 per cent, whereas that of the rest of the population grew by 40 per cent. In 1979, nearly half of all pensioners were in the lowest fifth of income. Now it is only about 24 per cent; almost the same proportion as you would expect on any distribution. In 1979, 57 per cent of pensioners were on means-tested benefits; now, it is 40 per cent. Our task, therefore, is to help the quarter of pensioners in the lowest fifth of income without spending money on those who frankly do not need it.

As my noble friend said, her amendment would increase the pension to the level of the minimum income guarantee, which this Government introduced to help the poorest pensioners from this April.

Professor Robert Walker of Loughborough University, who is head of this research, goes on to state: Raising the state pension would make richer pensioners richer and would not help the poorest, since the latter would lose out on means-tested benefits". Those are not my words but those of the head of one of the most well-regarded research institutes in the country.

In other words, the amendment would give better-off pensioners more, including everybody in your Lordships' House who is of pensionable age. It would not help the poorest on income-related benefits who would lose it pound for pound. It would go to all when perhaps only one-fifth would need it, and they are precisely the ones who will not get it.

Therefore, it would give better-off pensioners more, but it would not help the poorest on income-related benefits. That does not fit well with our policy priorities which are seeking to tackle the problems of those on low income and to establish a decent pension structure for those coming through of working age.

Next April, the minimum income guarantee will be increased in line with earnings. This is a substantial increase for those pensioners who need it most. After next year's rise, a pensioner couple over 80 will be over £8 per week better off in real terms over the two-year period. However, we can only make such a substantial difference because we have concentrated the extra help on those who need it most. Had we not done so, I suspect that the amount for those who are the poorest would have been a quarter, a fifth or a tenth of that sum if we had to spread it across the pensioner population as a whole.

My noble friend's second point was about the affordability of the increase. The initial cost of increasing the basic pension, and the linked benefits such as incapacity and widow's benefits, would be about £4.3 billion a year initially. Even with price uprating thereafter, it would be necessary to increase National Insurance contribution rates by about 1 per cent after two to three years. But the cost of uprating the proposed £75 pension in line with earnings would be much more substantial, reaching £10 billion in 2010 and continuing to grow thereafter.

My noble friend suggested, as she has on previous occasions, that her proposals could be paid for with the surplus in the National Insurance Fund. However, there are three reasons why we have to look beyond a simple comparison of the first year cost of this increase and the current surplus in the National Insurance Fund. First, that surplus cannot be drawn on indefinitely whereas the cost of these amendments continues over time. The surplus would be eliminated in two years flat. Secondly, the expected success of our new stakeholder pensions will mean payment of more rebates out of the National Insurance Fund, bringing expenditure and income more closely into line. Thirdly, it would not be prudent for any government to make a long-term expenditure commitment based on projections of surpluses in future years. Those projections are subject to quite wide swings. For example, at the end of December 1991 the Government Actuary Report forecast an end of year balance of 17 per cent of benefit expenditure, but 11 months later that had been revised to 10 per cent. That gap was worth £3 billion in today's terms. Variations of that degree from the 17 per cent prophesied to the out-turn only 11 months later of only 10 per cent mean that the current surplus can, and has in the past, often quite quickly disappear. We could not, therefore, use this as a building block with which to fund permanent annual increases, as my noble friend suggests.

I understand the arguments behind these amendments. However, we are talking about large sums of money which would not be well targeted. We have already done much for pensioners and we shall do more. In this Government we have introduced the winter fuel payments and the like. Those are simply the first steps. However, in my view we should not build on them with the untargeted spending proposed here.

At the end of the day, the amendment tabled by my noble friends would, in the words of Professor Walker, ensure that rich pensioners became richer while the poorest pensioners would see no improvement in their lot at all. That is not a position that I can recommend to the House. I urge my noble friends to withdraw their amendment.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, is she aware that, according to highly publicised statistics, 65 per cent of all pensioners have an income that is much less than the income tax threshold? That means that a lot of people are quite poor.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, the income tax threshold is appropriately privileged to pensioners. But I repeat that since 1979 pensioner income has risen by 70 per cent. I could go on, but what has clearly happened since 1979—I know my noble friend will not disagree with me—is that in almost every household structure in the country we have seen inequality widen. Whereas if we asked back in 1979 who were the poor, the answer would have been a pensioner; if we asked today, the answer is a child.

What has happened is that four-fifths of pensioners have done relatively well since 1979 by virtue of occupational pensions, access to savings and the flow of income from that. But the bottom fifth have been left behind—and they are the ones we are seeking to help. If we help all, we cannot help the poorest, and that is our priority.

Baroness Castle of Blackburn

The Minister has not pointed out to the House—I feel she owes it to us to do so—that whet. increasing any services across the board (say, child benefit) and therefore giving to some who do not need it, we rely on getting a good deal of it back through the tax system. That is point number one which my noble friend always ignores in her figures; the fact that the well-to-do have to pay tax. In my view, they should be paying more than at present, but even allowing for the present levels, we get some of it back. Her statistics in that regard therefore are one-sided. She also always implies that this sort of accumulative cost (about which she warns us) is taking place against a background of expanding national income and as a percentage of the national wealth and is, therefore, manageable.

It is too late for us to continue this ding dong. I know the Minister will appreciate that I am profoundly dissatisfied with her answer, as is Lady Turner. But I shall withdraw the amendment because at this late hour it is absurd to expect the House to vote on anything. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 54 and 55 not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Pensions: miscellaneous amendments]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 56: Page 92, line 34, after ("months") insert ("immediately").

Schedule 3 [Pension sharing orders: England and Wales]:

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 57: Page 96, leave out lines 16 to 20.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall deal with this amendment as quickly as I can. Amendments Nos. 58 and 59 and 67 to 69 are grouped with Amendment No. 56.

I begin by saying that this is the first group of amendments that deals with the subject of pension sharing, which takes up a large part of this Bill. It is in fact remarkable how few amendments there are in this part of the Bill and that is a tribute to the careful and detailed spadework which has been done on these proposals under the aegis of the present Government and their predecessors. It is now clearly an idea whose time has come.

Amendment No. 56 deals with one minor defect in the Bill. Under the Bill it will not be possible to have, in respect of the same divorce, both a pension-sharing order and an earmarking order, the difference between them being that a pension-sharing order gives the spouse part of the fund which is set up to provide a pension, whereas an earmarking order provides the spouse with part of the pension itself or other benefits when they are paid.

We accept that pension sharing and earmarking are normally alternatives, but there may be cases where both kinds of order are appropriate. Obviously, you cannot have a sharing and an earmarking order in respect of the pension at the same time, but there is no practical reason why you cannot have a sharing order in respect of the pension and an earmarking order for non-pension benefits, such as the death in service benefit. This has been pointed out in submissions to the Social Security Select Committee in the other place by the Association of Pension Lawyers and by the Solicitor's Family Law Association.

The earmarking of a death in service benefit may be valuable where a husband is, for example, required to contribute to the maintenance of the children of a marriage. In such a case, if the wife has no access to the death in service benefit, serious hardship may be suffered after the husband's death. However, the death in service benefit has no cash equivalent transfer value, or very little, and it cannot therefore be adequately covered by including it in the pension sharing order. Therefore, in appropriate cases, which would probably be relatively few, why cannot a pension sharing order together with an earmarking order be allowed for non-pension benefits?

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, unfortunately we on this side of the House cannot support Amendment No. 57 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. We feel that it would be a mistake to remove these lines from the Bill, as it would create uncertainty. The lines in question prevent an order being granted for a second time against pension benefits, with which we agree. The amendment would allow changes to pension-sharing arrangements, which are already agreed and in place. We cannot support such a change.

Similarly, we cannot support Amendment No. 58, which would remove the ability of a court to vary an order after it is made and before a divorce is absolute. We believe that pension-sharing arrangements should be finalised at the time of divorce and not before.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, the purpose of Amendments Nos. 57 and 68 is to remove the restrictions in England and Wales on pension sharing in relation to earmarked pensions and on earmarking pensions that have been shared. Similarly, in Scotland, Amendment No. 69 would enable a pension-sharing agreement and an earmarking order in respect of the same pension arrangement.

Under the Bill it will not be possible to pension share a pension arrangement which is subject to an earmarking order. As the noble Lord, Lord Astor, rightly pointed out, this is not an arbitrary restriction. It is to protect former spouses and to prevent them from losing out through no fault of their own. If, for example, an earmarking order is made of, say, 50 per cent of the pension payments to be made under a pension arrangement, the value of those payments will fall by one-half if the pension rights out of which they are to be paid are shared on a 50–50 basis. That would not be fair.

I turn now to the restriction on earmarking. The Bill provides that where the parties to the marriage have already shared a particular pension arrangement, the court may not make an earmarking order in relation to that arrangement and those parties. The justification for the restriction is that it will promote the "clean break" on divorce. This principle underlies the whole of the pension-sharing legislation. Put simply, divorcing spouses have to make a choice whether to share, earmark or off-set the value of their pensions. The policy prevents the same spouse coming back for several bites of the cherry while permitting subsequent spouses to have a bite of what is left of the cherry after the previous pension share.

It would seem odd to me—and, indeed, unreasonable—to put a spouse in a position where his or her original pension entitlement had been divided and shared with a former spouse, probably significantly reducing the benefits payable to the original pensioner and any new spouse, and then to provide that even those remaining benefits could be earmarked in favour of the former spouse with whom the pension had been shared and who had thereby been given his or her own pension. That seems to us to be far too much.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, wondered whether we could have a concession for the earmarking of death in service benefits alone. That is a contingent benefit which is unlikely in many, or in most, cases to be paid out. No former spouse could depend on receiving such a benefit and such benefits are not included in the cash equivalent transfer valuations of pension rights. We believe that to allow death benefits to be earmarked when a pension is shared would not be consistent with the encouragement of clean breaks. It would also be unfair to second families. If a pension has been shared and a new pension created in favour of a former spouse, why should that spouse, rather than any new spouse or family, also benefit from the death of his or her former partner?

Therefore, I am afraid that we do not accept the push of the noble Lord's position. However, if I have misunderstood him in any way I should be glad if he would write to me and we can pursue the matter through correspondence. In the light of those remarks I hope that the noble Lord will be willing to withdraw his amendments.

1.30 a.m.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, has somewhat missed the point here. What I am really getting at is not so much the possibility of making orders on two different occasions—which I agree would be unsatisfactory—but, more importantly, what is excluded from the Bill is the possibility of making those orders on the same occasion; that is, on the occasion of the divorce making both the pension sharing order and an earmarking order in respect of non-pension benefits, in particular the death in service benefit, although there could be others. I believe that that is unnecessary and could cause hardship in some cases. I certainly think that it is unlikely to be used frequently but I do not think that it is either necessary or desirable to exclude it. However, in view of the time of night and the fact that this is not an amendment of the first order of importance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 4 [Amendments of sections 25B to 25D of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973]:

[Amendments Nos. 58 and 59 not moved.]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No.60: Page 100, line 12, after ("include") insert—

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 60 I wish to speak also to those amendments which are grouped with it. We come to a group of amendments to the pension sharing provisions in the Bill. I shall be as speedy as I can. I shall give the briefest of explanations as they are essentially technical.

I start with Amendments Nos. 60 to 66, 218, 224, 226 to 228, 267, 278 and 279. These amendments are largely drafting changes which move provisions from one part of the Bill to another. They relate to the powers already in the Bill to make regulations in terms of information, the recovery of charges, the valuation of pension rights and the recovery of certain charges by pension arrangements. At present these regulation-making powers are in separate provisions for England, Wales and Scotland. We propose to consolidate them for the whole of Great Britain.

There is, however, one significant departure from the equivalent provisions in the Bill; namely, that the amendments enable the regulations to extend to requests for information and earmarking orders emanating from Northern Ireland. This ensures that regulations can require any pension arrangement in Great Britain to supply the relevant pension information in connection with divorce or nullity proceedings in any part of the UK.

Amendment No. 84 is a simple amendment to tidy up the legislation by removing a superfluous definition of "regulatory authority". Amendments Nos. 89 to 91 are technical amendments to the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. They are designed to ensure that pension debits and credits are revalued in the same way as the additional pension that has been shared.

Amendments Nos. 220 and 282 ensure that the references to the Bill in the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988 which were inserted by this year's Finance Act are correct. Amendments Nos. 221 and 222 correct a minor drafting defect in provisions in the Bill which amend the Pension Schemes Act 1993. Amendments Nos. 225 and 268 ensure that the calculation of cash equivalents for pension sharing purposes is consistent with the provisions already in the Pension Schemes Act and in the rest of this Bill.

Amendment No, 214 is again a technical amendment to delete Clause 80(4)(c) which should have been removed from the face of the Bill as a consequence of Amendment No. 157 which was accepted by your Lordships in Committee on 20th July.

Finally, Amendments Nos. 215 to 219 are technical amendments to the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985. As the House may be aware, in about 90 per cent of cases in Scotland matrimonial property is shared by minute of agreement without the need for a court order.

These amendments ensure that the Scottish courts cannot make earmarking orders or pension sharing orders if a pension sharing agreement is in effect in relation to the same marriage and the same pension arrangement. The court should be able to make such orders if the agreement is varied or set aside, and provision for this is made in the amendment. The amendments also make it clear that pension sharing orders and earmarking orders cannot, as we have just discussed, be made in the same divorce proceedings in relation to the same pension arrangements. The amendments will ensure that pension sharing terms in negotiated agreements can be set aside only by the courts when a decree of divorce is granted.

There are a number of amendments here but the policy remains the same. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that it is important that the legislation is as clear as possible for both scheme members and pension arrangements. I urge noble Lords to accept these amendments. If any noble Lord wishes a fuller explanation of any one of these, I shall be happy to write to him. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 61: Page 100, leave out lines 17 to 39.

Clause 22 [Extension to overseas divorces etc.]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 62 and 63: Page 26, line 33, leave out ("and (2D)"). Page 26, leave out lines 35 to 38.)

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 64 to 66: After Clause 22, insert the following new clause—

Forward to