I am grateful to those Members who took the trouble to address auto-enrolment, but the shadow Secretary of State glossed over that issue. He said we ought to enrol at £5,000, which is not the right figure, but let us accept it for the sake of argument. He then said we should not put up the threshold. Therefore, under his scheme with the threshold at £5,000, someone who earned £5,100 would be auto-enrolled on that £100, and as we start at 1%, they would have to put in £1—not £1 a week, but £1 a year, or 2p a week. That is what will happen if we do not let this Bill make progress. We will be requiring employers and employees to put 2p per week into the

20 Jun 2011 : Column 124

employee’s pension. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that might in any sense undermine the credibility of our proposals?

Dr Whiteford: I agree with the Minister that this issue has been glossed over in today’s debate, but in our debate on welfare reform last week great store was set by so-called mini-jobs. It seems to me that those are exactly the jobs that will not be included in auto-enrolment. Can the Minister understand why that fuels concern that a mini-job is simply a euphemism for a low-paid, low-skilled job that keeps women trapped in poverty?

Steve Webb: The hon. Lady will be aware of the national insurance floor of roughly £100 a week. Many of these mini-jobs, as she describes them, will be below that and would not be covered by auto-enrolment anyway, but once such people are above the threshold for national insurance, they will be able to opt in should they want to. Moreover, if a mini-job occurs later in life and they have some track record of a connection with pensions, they might well have a conversation with their employer about opting in and triggering the employer contribution.

Several hon. Members rose

Steve Webb: As there were 25 contributions to the debate, I want to try to respond to some of the points that were made, and then I will certainly give way some more.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North (Jonathan Evans)—indeed, Cardiff was well represented in the debate: by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jenny Willott) and by the hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams), who raised issues relating to Allied Steel and Wire—pointed out Labour’s track record on pensions. He was right to do so, because although one or two Opposition Members glossed over history, he reminded us of the 75p pension increase—something that can never happen again under our triple lock. He reminded us of the failure of the previous Government to get to grips with Equitable Life and of the tax grab by the previous Chancellor and Prime Minister on company pensions. That is not a proud record.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Dame Anne Begg), the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, made a characteristically thoughtful contribution and I am grateful for her support for our abolition of the default retirement age. The link to that issue has not often been made in today’s debate. The previous Government were planning to raise the state pension age to 66, 67 or 68—but to leave it legal to sack people for turning 65. There is a logical flaw there, and I am sure the House is ahead of me on that. It is therefore right that we have taken away employers’ ability to sack people for the “sin” of turning 65.

I am also grateful for the hon. Lady’s support for our going ahead with the National Employment Savings Trust and the flexibility around auto-enrolment in 2012. She asked whether our £10 billion estimate of the cost of delay to 2020 was a gross or net figure. It is a net figure, taking account of benefit offsets. However, a lot of the points that she and a number of other Members made would apply whenever we raised state pension ages. For example, it was the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce), I think, who asked,

20 Jun 2011 : Column 125

“What will happen to volunteers? What will happen to carers?” Those are important questions, but they would of course arise whenever state pension ages are raised—and she supports a party that legislated to raise the pension age to 68. She is right that these issues need to be addressed, but they exist not specifically because of this Bill but because of legislation that is already in place.

Mr Watts: Is it not a fact that, if the Minister accepted the Opposition’s proposals, they would deal with the short-term problem, the long-term problem and the unfairness, and he would probably get more support from his own party?

Steve Webb: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for recognising that there is a long-term problem, which not all his colleagues have done.

My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) made the point that this is not about the deficit. That is quite true—these measures do not save us money in the current comprehensive spending review period. However, I have a figure to present to the House: £1.3 trillion. That is the national debt at the end of this Parliament, even after our austerity measures. That is the legacy; that is the reason we need to get a grip on these matters.

As well as the 25 Members who spoke today, there were two almost silent voices—especially silent in the Opposition’s contributions. The first silent voice was tomorrow’s taxpayer. Labour wants to put the Bill into the 2030s. If we delay the changes, all these things will have to be paid for by someone else. As long as it is not the people who write to us—somebody else will pay, and they do not write to us, so that is fine. That voice needs to be heard.

The second voice that was not really heard much in the debate—although a few coalition Members did raise it—was that of employers. Of course, many of the Bill’s measures on auto-enrolment are about easing the burden it imposes, particularly on smaller firms, which are crucial to our recovery and the fundamental improvement of the economy. These measures strike a balance. The waiting period gives employers time to get people on the payroll. The threshold enables employers to take on people on a lower wage, with less bureaucratic burden. The voice of the employer and the costs and burdens on business were issues that the Opposition almost did not raise at all.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jenny Willott) was very generous in her remarks, supporting the measures on judges and on auto-enrolment. She quite properly raised concerns about the state pension age, but she made an important point about our state pension reform agenda generally. There are two sides to the state pension deal—when people get it and what they get. One Opposition Member this evening described the state pension as a pittance, but who oversaw it at that level for 13 years? We have brought forward, in our Green Paper, proposals for a single tier of state pensions set above the level of the means test. That is one of our reform options and that is the pension, if those proposals go ahead, that every one of the women we have been talking about today would get, so there is an issue about when they get the pension, but there is also, crucially, an issue about what they get. We are actively looking into that and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising it.

20 Jun 2011 : Column 126

The hon. Member for Arfon asked about Allied Steel and Wire workers and the financial assistance scheme. I can confirm that I met them along with the Secretary of State for Wales and Dr Ros Altmann, who has done a huge amount of good work in this area, back in November and that I wrote to update the Secretary of State last week. We are aiming to provide forecasts for financial assistance scheme members once the wind-up process for schemes is completed. In the case of ASW, the scheme is still winding up, so the financial assistance scheme is not yet in a position to provide forecasts, but we hope to make progress later this year. The hon. Gentleman also asked about Dr Altmann’s ideas for getting money into the scheme and we have looked at trying to release value from annuities. That is not looking as hopeful as we had hoped but we are working hard to see if that can be done and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making the point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer) gets the prize for making the sharpest intervention. He pointed out to the shadow Secretary of State the legal advice and comments made by my noble Friend Lord Freud in the House of Lords on 30 March. I know that my hon. Friend reads little else and I am grateful to him for drawing those comments to our attention. [ Interruption. ] As the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill has asked the question, let me tell him the answer before he asks again. My noble Friend was responding to an amendment that would have slowed the process at which we equalise the men’s and women’s state pension age. The right hon. Gentleman will know that we are on a process of equalisation, and the legal issue is that we deviate from equalisation if at any point we widen the gap. The coalition reference to moving men in 2016 and women in 2020 would widen that gap. The issue is directive 79/7, which

“deals with the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security…Any change we now wish to make needs to be considered in relation to the position left by the 1995 Act.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 30 March 2011; Vol. 726, c. 1279.]

That is on the record and has been for several months.

Mr Byrne: I am grateful to the Minister for finally setting out that legal advice to the House, but he must answer this question: why was the commitment in the coalition agreement if there was a law that made it impossible?

Steve Webb: If it had been self-evidently not possible, I think that the right hon. Gentleman would have pointed it out in the past 12 months, but I have not heard him do so.

The right hon. Member for Croydon North (Malcolm Wicks) made a characteristically thoughtful speech and I hope that he is on the Public Bill Committee. That would lengthen our proceedings, but in a very nice way. He raised the important issue of the entitlement of people with long years of national insurance payments to a national insurance pension. He generously referred to the fact that I taught his daughter at university; I hope that I contributed in some way to her social mobility as a result. He raised the serious issue of using long periods of national insurance records. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, the records before 1975 are a mess, which the right hon. Gentleman will know as he is one of my many predecessors.

20 Jun 2011 : Column 127

Our ability to use those records is very limited and one of my concerns about his proposal, which I am happy to discuss with him in a genuinely open way, is the position of women, because they would have to be credited for times when they were not in paid work. Some of that paid work will have been before home responsibilities protection was introduced and so we simply would not know who to credit. That is only one of the issues, but as I have said, we are happy to engage with him in the spirit of openness.

Malcolm Wicks: I am grateful for that. My point was that those who have been working since the age of 15 or 16 in manual occupations are often physically worn out and need to retire earlier than Governments have proposed. If the objections or concerns are technical, that suggests that if there is a technical way forward, we could arrive at it—could we not?

Steve Webb: As I have said, I am happy to engage with the right hon. Gentleman in an open and constructive way. I suspect that wishing away the technical problems might be more difficult than he imagines, but I am happy to have that dialogue with him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) who chairs the all-party group on occupational pensions—

Sheila Gilmore: Will the Minister give way?

Steve Webb: As I have five minutes to respond, I had better not.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester made a characteristically thoughtful contribution. I am grateful to him for that. He raised the issue of intergenerational fairness, which goes to the heart of the Bill. It is why we need to progress with it and debate it through the House. A number of our constituents who have written to us about the Bill imagine that this is the only chance we get to debate it. We will be in Committee right up to the final day before the summer recess, I am delighted to say, and we will return to it on Report, so there is ample opportunity to debate and discuss the Bill.

The hon. Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) raised the issue of manual labourers. I accept that that is an important point, which needs to be addressed. My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen) quite properly raised the issue of long-term principles. I hope he will respond to our Green Paper consultation, which looks specifically at age 67 and 68, mechanisms and processes. Those are the principal issues that we are trying to raise.

The hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead, who tabled the relevant early-day motion, asked about transfers into NEST and so on. As she knows, the idea of NEST was to get the thing going and to cater particularly for people who might not otherwise have access to a pension. Once that roll-out is complete in 2017, the whole system will be reviewed and the issue of transfers-in will be looked at as part of that review, so I can give her that assurance.

My hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) supported the Bill and said that good governance is about taking decisions in the long-term interests of our country, which is what the Bill does. I thank him for

20 Jun 2011 : Column 128

that. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) raised issues about auto-enrolment. I have already pointed out why we are doing it and the balance that we are trying to strike. My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) spoke about the fragility of private sector pensions. I agree with him. That is why it is vital that we move ahead with the Bill and make auto-enrolment work, rather than delaying it, as the Opposition want.

The hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) asked whether people will be able to work in their later years. I can tell her that women are already, on average, leaving the labour market after state pension age. In 2004 women on average left the labour market at 61.6 years. In the past six years that has gone up by more than a year, so there are already trends of longer working lives. We need to build on them.

The hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) said that other countries are following a different path. I can tell him that they are not. Other countries are raising their state pension ages and in some cases raising them faster than we are. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West (Mike Crockart) supported many aspects of the reforms. I congratulate him on a very well researched contribution. I am grateful to him for the principles that he set out—simplicity and making auto-enrolment work—and I note his comments about the state pension age changes.

On that issue, which has clearly been the focal point of the debate, let me sum up the position. We heard a number of hon. Members raise their concerns about the state pension age. The Government’s position is clear. We are not simply living longer; we are living longer at a faster rate. The improvement of five years in life expectancy at pension age took 70 years between 1920 and 1990. The next similar improvement happened in 20 years. The improvement in longevity is like a runaway train. We must address that. Those who vote against Second Reading are not just deficit deniers, but longevity deniers. They need to recognise the real changes.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his characteristically resolute way, confirmed that the Government believe that we need to equalise more rapidly and reach age 66 as the retirement age more rapidly, but he also said that he recognised that we need to implement that fairly and manage the transition smoothly. He went on to say that he heard the specific concerns about a relatively small number of women and that he was willing to work to get the transition right. I am committed to doing the same, together with him.

If the House were to reject the Bill tonight, those who vote against must tell us where £30 billion will come from, how they will make auto-enrolment work and why judges should not have to pay for their pensions. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House divided:

Ayes 302, Noes 232.

Division No. 299]

[9.59 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Bingham, Andrew

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Mrs Louise

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Moore, rh Michael

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr Philip Dunne and

Mark Hunter


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jon

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Mr Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

MacShane, rh Mr Denis

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McCrea, Dr William

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Paul

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

Onwurah, Chi

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Joan

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wicks, rh Malcolm

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Jonathan Reynolds and

Graham Jones

Question accordingly agreed to.

20 Jun 2011 : Column 129

20 Jun 2011 : Column 130

20 Jun 2011 : Column 131

20 Jun 2011 : Column 132

Bill read a Second time.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Pensions Bill [Lords]:


1. The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

20 Jun 2011 : Column 133

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

2. Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 19 July 2011.

3. The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Consideration and Third Reading

4. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

6. Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.

Other proceedings

7. Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of any message from the Lords) may be programmed.—(Steve Webb.)

Question agreed to.


Queen’s Recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Pensions Bill [Lords], it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—

(1) any expenditure incurred in consequence of the Act by the Secretary of State, and

(2) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided.—(Steve Webb.)

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Pensions Bill [Lords], it is expedient to authorise—

(1) the levying of charges under the Pension Schemes Act 1993 for the purpose of meeting expenditure of the Secretary of State in making grants under that Act, and

(2) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.—(Steve Webb.)

Question agreed to.

Business without Debate

delegated legislation

Mr Speaker: With the agreement of the House, we shall take motions 5 to 9 together.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the draft International Tax Enforcement (Belize) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 4 April, be approved.

That the draft International Tax Enforcement (Dominica) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 4 April, be approved.

That the draft International Tax Enforcement (Grenada) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 4 April, be approved.

That the draft Double Taxation Relief (Qatar) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 4 April, be approved.

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That the draft International Tax Enforcement (San Marino) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 4 April, be approved.—(Stephen Crabb.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Contracting Out

That the draft Contracting Out (Local Authorities Social Services Functions) (England) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 10 May, be approved.—(Stephen Crabb.)

Question agreed to.

Business of the House


That, at the sitting on Tuesday 21 June, notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 83A (Programme motions), proceedings on the Motion in the name of Mr Secretary Lansley relating to Health and Social Care Bill (Programme) (No. 2) shall be brought to a conclusion not later than one hour after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion, at which time the Speaker shall put the Question; and no amendments to the Motion shall be moved.—( Sir George Young.)

Mr Speaker: Before I invite the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) to present his petition, which I know Members will be eagerly anticipating, I appeal to right hon. and hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber to do so quickly and quietly, extending the same courtesy to the hon. Gentleman that they would want to be extended to them in such circumstances.


Cheshunt Urgent Care Centre (Hertfordshire)

10.19 pm

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): When coming here tonight, I received a text from Tony Siracusa, who said:

“Tonight, Charles, you’re our voice. Please continue to ensure we are heard in the House of Commons.”

I intend to do that this evening.

Before I present the petition I should like to thank Paul Mason, the leader of Broxbourne council, who organised an excellent march in support of the urgent care centre about which I am petitioning tonight. I also thank our campaigning newspaper, the Mercury, and in particular Gemma Gardner and the editor Gary Matthews.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Broxbourne Borough and surrounding areas,

Declares that the decision taken by Hertfordshire Primary Care Trust to close Cheshunt Urgent Care Centre (UCC) fails to recognise the importance and value of the UCC to the local community.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Health to use his offices to intervene in the matter to require the PCT to revisit its decision in regards to the UCC, and keep GP-led services operating at the site.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


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Private Gary Barlow

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Stephen Crabb .)

10.21 pm

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): I am grateful for this opportunity to raise the case of Private Gary Barlow, who served with the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, was shot in Northern Ireland on 4 March 1973 and died early the next morning. He was 19 years old.

There may be those who wonder why a case that is now nearly 40 years old should be debated on the Floor of the House. My answer is simple: it is about justice for Gary, for his family and for the people who tried to save him. Not only was Gary Barlow tragically killed, but his bravery was never properly recognised and his family suffered, and continue to suffer, both because of his death and because of what happened to them after it. It is in the hope that we can at least provide some recognition of Gary’s bravery tonight, and at least some modicum of comfort to his family, that I have asked for this debate.

Gary’s death was investigated by the Historical Enquiries Team set up by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2005 to investigate any deaths that were attributable to what we still call the troubles, and to try to bring some resolution to the families involved. It is, of course, very difficult to bring things to a conclusion after so much time has elapsed. Some witnesses are no longer available and some documents are no longer there. However, the inquiry team did a very thorough job, and the basic facts of what happened to Gary on that day are now clear. I want to summarise them, if I may—and it will be a summary, not a full account, because of the time available.

On 4 March Gary was part of a patrol that was sent to the Divis flats to carry out a search operation. A soldier had been shot and wounded there earlier in the day. The soldiers searched some premises, and then joined others in a Saracen armoured personnel carrier. At that point they heard a shot, and the men got out to deploy in defensive positions. Those at the Army observation post on the top of the Divis flats pinpointed where they thought the gunman was, and the soldiers were ordered to carry out a search. They encountered some difficulties in doing so, but they used the Saracen to ram the doors of the garage opposite, and Gary and another soldier were ordered to search that building.

Not surprisingly in the context of the time, a hostile crowd gathered. As the situation deteriorated and the light was fading, the lieutenant in charge ordered his men to withdraw. They all got back into the Saracen, except Gary. No roll-call was taken at the time. It appears from witness statements that the lieutenant asked the two corporals to account for all their men. Gary’s corporal shouted to ask whether they were all back, and someone said yes. It was only when the patrol got back to base that Gary’s room-mate realised that he was missing. At the same time, two young girls arrived, sent by a woman in the Divis flats, at some considerable risk to herself and to them, to tell the Army that a soldier had been left behind.

A patrol later found Gary, face down on the floor of that garage, shot and bleeding profusely from a head wound. He was given medical care by the Royal Army

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Medical Corps and taken to hospital, but tragically he died early the next morning. The Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for Gary’s death, but no one was ever charged with his murder, although several people were investigated and a number of searches were carried out. Again, in the context of the time, when it was difficult to get people to co-operate with the police, that is entirely understandable.

However, in one raid, Gary’s rifle was found. It had not been fired. When the inquiry team investigated the case, as well as looking at the facts, they considered concerns raised by Gary’s family that his hearing had been damaged in an earlier incident. The team found in his service record a note of an incident on 5 February that year. They thought that that may have related to an earlier incident in the Divis flats, when soldiers were attacked by a blast bomb. They acknowledged that Gary’s family received a call shortly afterwards from one of his friends who said that he could not speak on the phone because his hearing had been damaged. The inquiry team therefore concluded that it was likely that Gary did not hear the order to withdraw, either because of where he was in the building, or because his hearing had been damaged earlier.

The facts of Gary’s death are tragic enough. However, I also believe that he and his family were let down by what happened on that day and by their treatment later. The first question of course is whether Gary was fit for duty that day. The inquiry team was not able to resolve that satisfactorily because his Army medical records were not available. However, I think that his family and others would want to know that lessons have been learnt and that no soldier will again be put in such a position when their hearing might be impaired.

There were also failures on the part of the lieutenant and the corporal in command of Gary’s section that day. Even when due allowances are made for the stress that they were under at that time, and for the extremely difficult situation in which they found themselves, they should have made sure that all their men were accounted for. The British Army expects very high standards of its officers and non-commissioned officers. Those standards are generally met and even exceeded. However, on this occasion, they fell short and that mistake led to Gary’s death.

The Ministry of Defence later wrote Gary’s parents a very detailed letter. It put the failure down to the very difficult operational circumstances that prevailed at the time. However, the inquiry team pointed out that those circumstances prevailed throughout Northern Ireland and that they would nevertheless have expected what they called military discipline and training to kick in to ensure that a proper roll-call was taken.

It was not, and it appears from the evidence that Gary, left alone, was attacked by a group of youths. Some women in the area urged him to leave. He refused to leave his post. Remember that it seems that this young man was not aware that he had been ordered to withdraw. He stood his ground and fought back. He did not discharge his rifle. His family believes—and it seems reasonable—that he did not do so to avoid the possibility of injury to civilians. Eventually, he was shot in the head and neck. The inquiry team said that, in not firing his rifle and in standing his ground, he displayed courage and strength of character. I believe he did more than that: he acted in the finest tradition of the British Army,

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both in refusing to leave his post and trying to stand his ground, and in trying to avoid injury to civilians. We should remember that this was a young man of only 19. Many who are older and more experienced would have done less, but he held out until the end.

Gary’s bravery, however—this is the sad thing—was never properly recognised. His family have fought for a long time to find out the true circumstances of his death, and to ensure that he is recognised. I pay tribute to them this evening, especially to his parents and his sister, Tina. They did so even though they themselves suffered after his death. They were not notified of the inquest, for instance, even though his father had expressed a wish to attend. In fact, they read the inquest verdict in the Daily Mirror. I ask the House to try to comprehend how it must be to lose a son in such circumstances, and then for the family to read about an inquest that they did not know had taken place.

Gary’s things were returned to his family in a slovenly way—in boxes, without even a note or covering letter—thus increasing their grief. Most of all, as well as letters of condolence, they received death threats. As a result, they were advised by the police to leave their home. They have only just returned to the Warrington area.

Nevertheless, they have sought recognition for the bravery of their son and brother. That bravery has been recognised elsewhere. The inquiry team discovered one of the young girls who was sent to the Army post on that day—of course, she is now a grown woman. She said that her mother was too frail to be interviewed by the team, but that she nevertheless prayed for Gary every day. She also said that once a year, the women in the area organised a mass for the repose of his soul. We should remember that those women were in a staunchly republican area of Belfast, yet they recognised the bravery of that young man.

We should do no less. I know that it is too late for Gary to receive a gallantry award. His mother received the Elizabeth cross last year—I am proud that Labour introduced that—but as the Minister and hon. Members will know, the Elizabeth cross recognises the sacrifice of the families of those who are killed on operations, and is not in itself a gallantry award for the person killed. However, that young man behaved admirably, and I hope that we can tonight finally put on the record our appreciation of his bravery.

Gary’s family gave him to the Army and to his country. Let us be honest, even after all these years: he was let down, and they were let down. People who join the forces expect to put their lives on the line if necessary, but they also expect proper care to be taken of their welfare and, if they are killed, proper care to be taken of the welfare of their families. In that way, we failed, yet I have never once heard Gary’s family complain. Their only concern is for him.

I once said to Gary’s mother, “You must be very proud of him, Mrs Barlow.” She replied, very simply, “Yes, I am.” This young man was a fine British soldier and a very brave young man indeed. It is time that we recognised that. His mother is proud of him; we should be proud of him too. I hope the Minister can put on the record tonight how much we as a country appreciate the sacrifice that Gary made, and ensure that the lessons have been learned, so that never again will a family be put in this situation.

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10.34 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Andrew Robathan): I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) for securing this debate on the very tragic death of Private Gary Barlow slightly over 38 years ago. As it happens, I know the Divis flats and the observation tower. I have served and seen the difficulties of operating there, as did the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in 1973.

Private Barlow joined the Army in 1970 and went into the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, and he deployed to Northern Ireland with his regiment in the early years of Operation Banner, at the end of 1972, when the violence in Northern Ireland was at its height. Tragically he was killed in Belfast on 5 March 1973 aged just 19. There was absolutely no doubt who killed him: responsibility for his death was admitted by the IRA and the murderous thugs who supported it in the Divis flats. He was part of a four-man patrol that had deployed to search an area following a series of shooting incidents. The patrol was forced to withdraw rapidly as a hostile crowd had gathered, and Private Barlow was in the process of searching a garage at the time and did not withdraw with the rest of his unit, as we have heard.

Unfortunately it was not until later that Private Barlow’s patrol realised that he was missing—the hon. Lady brought out one or two very good points about that—and returned to retrieve him, by which time he had been shot and injured by the IRA. Tragically, he succumbed to his injuries in hospital later that night. Had he lived, Private Barlow would have seen his 58th birthday this week. He was one of more than 250,000 service personnel who saw service in Northern Ireland during the 38 years of Operation Banner, which was the longest single operation ever mounted by the British Army. The Army demonstrated a resolute, disciplined and flexible attitude towards adapting to a unique deployment of military forces on UK territory—it was never a happy occasion. The resilience that our soldiers displayed over such a long period and under extremely difficult circumstances greatly contributed to the peace that now exists. They and the community at large have suffered death and injury, and we should again take this opportunity to remember their commitment, bravery and sacrifice, and that of Private Barlow.

In recognition of the ultimate sacrifice paid by Private Barlow, his mother, Mrs Rona Barlow, has already been presented with the Elizabeth cross and the memorial scroll. The Elizabeth cross is awarded as a symbol of national recognition of the sacrifice and loss of those UK armed forces personnel who have died on operations or owing to acts of terrorism. It is a reminder of the contribution made by those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and our security, and of how highly their service is valued. Regrettably, however, it is not for me to recommend that Private Barlow be given a further award. Our honours and awards system relies on the bestowal of gallantry awards soon after the event for which it is believed an individual’s actions should be recognised.

The convention adhered to is that no award can be made for an event that took place more than five years previously. To rely on incomplete and sometimes contradictory or anecdotal evidence so long after the event can be regarded as a slight to those commanders

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at all levels whose task it was to reward the most deserving as they judged at the time. This system has been developed over many years, and is designed to ensure that the process by which awards are made is fair and consistent, and it has stood the test of time. Neither the present Government nor any previous Administration have departed from the strict rule that British gallantry awards are not granted retrospectively.

Recommendations for gallantry awards are generated by commanders in the field and scrutinised at a number of levels by military committees, the last of which is the Armed Forces Operational Awards Committee, which comprises five senior officers representing all three services, and which ultimately recommends to Her Majesty the Queen who should receive awards. This process is completely independent of political influence, and it would not be possible—nor would it be right—for me to seek to influence this process. On a personal note, however, I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my condolences to Mrs Barlow for the loss of her son, and to express my deep gratitude for his service to this country and her dignity in grief. I would also like to take this opportunity to put it on the record that we are fortunate to have individuals such as Gary Barlow, both then and now, who are willing to demonstrate their bravery by serving with our armed forces. In the words of his commanding officer while expressing his and his regiment’s sadness and horror at Private Barlow’s death:

“He was a fine boy and a good and brave soldier”.

I am told—the hon. Lady mentioned this too—that the family were subjected to intense and often unwelcome media and public scrutiny, and to threats. I am sincerely sorry for the additional distress that this must have caused them. In the 1970s, when Private Barlow was killed, very little support was offered to bereaved families by the military, so I would also like to take this opportunity to reassure his family and the House that measures now exist to prevent other families from suffering the same experience.

Each death of a member of our armed forces is a tragedy—for their comrades and the country, but most especially for their family, such as Private Barlow’s family. As the years have progressed, I believe that we have got better at learning the lessons from each death, both in the field and in how we help and support the families left behind. Gone now are the days when the first that a family heard about the death of their loved one was a tersely worded official telegram. Despite the challenges of 24-hour media, we are largely successful at ensuring that families hear from us before impromptu and unofficial sources when a tragedy occurs. Sadly, with the increasing operational tempo since 9/11, we have learned a lot about loss and grief, and so have steadily improved the support and help available to families who lose a loved one. Every effort is made to ensure that the next of kin are informed as soon as possible by those who are appropriately trained, and a period of grace is given before the official announcement is made. It grieves me to say that this is going on even this week, as we know.

Since 2005 we have appointed and trained both casualty notification officers and visiting officers, so that the support that we offer families is not provided by those associated with the delivery of the worst news. Our

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dedicated visiting officers are able to guide, support and assist families through the difficult times of the repatriation ceremony, funeral arrangements and the return of their loved one’s effects. The hon. Lady was quite right to draw attention to the way in which this could sometimes be done in an arbitrary manner, with the arrival of some boxes containing a loved one’s effects. Visiting officers can be assigned to a bereaved family for six to nine months, but support remains available through the Army’s inquiries and aftercare support cell, right up to an inquest and beyond, unlike in 1973.

All families show different reactions to the loss of a loved one. Our visiting officers are trained to understand the differences and react accordingly, so that the level of support received is determined by the need of the family. The support is therefore enduring in nature and co-ordinated in provision. In addition to giving emotional support, the visiting officer can act as a conduit to practical support regarding pensions, counselling and financial matters. This includes access to public funds that are available to help families attend the significant events associated with their bereavement, helping with funeral expenses, travel to the repatriation, funeral and inquest, and accommodation. Public funds are also available to help families after their initial period of grief and mourning to move on with their lives, through the continuity of education allowance, the maintenance of the living overseas allowance, the ability to remain in service accommodation for up to two years and the transfer of the resettlement allowance. These are changes that have happened since 1973.

I referred earlier to the lessons that are now learned in the field. The Army keeps all its procedures under continuous review to ensure the safety of its personnel. Additionally, systems exist at various levels to identify lessons from incidents and make recommendations to take action to prevent similar circumstances from arising in future, including, where necessary, a statutory service inquiry and, when there is a death during operations, a service police investigation. We are not complacent. Despite the strides that have been made in recent years, we recognise that more can always be done. The armed forces covenant, which was published on 16 May, sets out what service personnel and their families can expect from the Government and the nation in recognition of what we ask them to do to keep us safe. The Government are determined to remove disadvantages encountered as a result of service, as well as ensuring that the armed forces community receives the recognition to which it is entitled. By publishing the covenant we have a clear sense of what we are trying to achieve and have established the right direction of travel that will allow us to do so.

As a nation, we have an obligation to our servicemen and women who, like Gary Barlow, commit themselves to the service of this country and risk paying the ultimate price to keep us safe, as well as to the families who support their loved ones in the armed forces through good times and bad. Our commitment to them should be just as enduring, and with the publication of the covenant, we believe that we have established a way of ensuring that this commitment does not waver. The nation will hold us to account.

I reiterate what I said to the hon. Lady earlier. This was an awful tragedy. As it happens, I also joined the Army in 1970, and to think of a young man of 19 being killed in that way in Northern Ireland must bring us all

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grief. I hope that raising this matter in the House of Commons will lead the Barlow family, and Mrs Rona Barlow and the sister whom the hon. Lady mentioned in particular, to appreciate that Private Barlow’s death is recognised and truly appreciated by the nation.

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Question put and agreed to.

10.45 pm

House adjourned.