Mr. Robert Ainsworth
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what arrangements were made for the existing Government employees to be compensated for their accrued service when Astra Training was floated as a private concern.
§ Miss Widdecombe
At the time of the Skills Training Agency privatisation in 1990, Ministers were concerned to ensure that proper arrangements were made to preserve staffs' terms and conditions of employment when they moved to the private sector. The provisions of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations were applied in full so as to ensure continuity of terms and conditions at the time of sale. As the regulations do not cover the transfer of pension rights—which, for civil servants, includes redundancy rights—separate arrangements were made for these. All purchasers of skillcentres, including Astra, were bound by the terms of sale to make pension provision broadly comparable to that applicable to the civil servants transferred to them. The terms of sale also provided that the staff would take with them a contractual right to redundancy compensation at civil service levels. Individual staff had a choice about how to deal with the pension entitlement they had earned as civil servants. They could leave their entitlement in the civil service scheme, to be drawn when they reached the normal retirement age; or they could opt to transfer the value of the pension earned in the civil service either to Astra's own pension scheme or to a personal pension scheme approved by the Inland Revenue. I understand that the vast majority of Astra staff chose the first option.