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Baroness Turner of Camden: I am disappointed that the Minister has not seen the merit of my arguments and those put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. The noble Lord does not seem to have replied to the amendment on consumer interests. As I said at the beginning, it was customary for the Occupational Pensions Board to include among its number someone who was identifiable as being representative of consumer interests. I do not see why that should not be possible here. It is important that consumer interests are seen to be adequately represented on the regulatory authority.

As to pensioners, I agree with everything that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard. In my role as a union official I can remember discussing pension provision with members and finding that there were sharp differences of opinion between people who were in work and had not yet had their pensions and people who were on pensions. Indeed, later in the Bill, when we reach Clause 66, we may be discussing a clause which perhaps worsens the position of existing pensioners compared with what is their position in many trust deeds at the present time.

I think that there is a case for having a representative of pensioner interests. It is noticeable that, in their lobbying of some of your Lordships, including myself, the unions have been telling us that they would like to see pensioner interests represented separately because they acknowledge that they are often not the same interests as those of people who have yet to receive a pension.

I hope that the Minister will think carefully about what has been said in debate today. There is a great deal of interest in the amendment concerning pensioners. I have been lobbied, as I am sure have other noble Lords, by organisations representative of pensioner interests. They have been taking a great deal of interest in the passage of the Bill. There are organisations outside which would be capable of nominating people who are well versed in pensions law generally and who would be well equipped to play a vital part.

Of course, people are not representative in the sense of their individual interests and the group from which they happen to come. What is important is the experience they bring with them to play a part in the authority. It is not that they are specifically representative in the sense of someone who represents and then reports back. We are not seeking that at all. We are looking for people who will bring a broad base of experience to the workings of the authority. Therefore, it is sensible to have the people who are referred to in Amendments Nos. 4 and 5.

I shall not press the amendments at this stage because I do not think it would be appropriate. I nevertheless hope that the Minister will give careful thought to what has been said this afternoon. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

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4 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 1, line 24, at end insert ("provided that at all times, at least one-third of those members, to a minimum number of 3, shall be women.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment proposes that at least one-third of the members, to a minimum number of three on the authority, shall be women. Generally speaking, women have not had a very good deal when it comes to pensions. It is only relatively recently that they have had the right of access to pension schemes on the same basis as men. Older women will no doubt remember that it was quite customary for large, private employers not to accept women into pension schemes until a later age than men. At about the age of 30 when it was assumed that they were well and truly unmarried and likely to remain so, women were then allowed to join the firm's pension scheme. Even so, because of the checkered work pattern of many women—time out for looking after children and perhaps caring for older relatives—it has been difficult for them to build up a reasonable pension entitlement.

In addition we have the problems of divorce to which we shall come later in the Bill. So while the earlier retirement age has often been held up as an advantage for women—perhaps in the eyes of some men that is an unfair advantage—when looking at pension provision as a whole it is clear that, just as in the work place, equality in provision has been very late in coming and there are still injustices and anomalies which specifically affect women. Therefore, there seems to be a case for arguing for a minimum number of women on the new regulatory authority. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I find myself a little confused by the noble Baroness's argument. I fully understand and appreciate—probably we shall discuss it later in the Bill—the problems which women have had over the years in getting equal rights and, in particular, in building up pensions. I do not believe that these arguments are at all relevant as regards who should make up the regulatory body. Therefore, I believe that we are having this debate at entirely the wrong place.

I always remember what one lady friend of mine in a senior position said when confronted by this question. She posed this question to her inquisitor: "Was I appointed on my merits or was I appointed just because you needed a woman?" That is the answer I give on this amendment.

We need six people who have the right qualifications. Frankly, if the best people are all women then so be it: if they are all men, so be it. I am quite sure that the Secretary of State will attempt, as we do in general government policy, to find women with the necessary qualifications in order to meet the main stipulation; namely, to be able to take a full part in the regulatory authority and do the job which needs to be done. I do not believe that it would be a service to pensioners, to

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men or women or women in general, to appoint people to a body just because they happen to be female. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Lockwood: I was not surprised at the Minister's reply to this amendment in view of his response to previous amendments when we were discussing who would be the chairman and other members. All the time he referred to "he". The assumption was that the chairman, the deputy chairman and other members, would be "he". That is exactly the problem which my noble friend is trying to overcome. As the Minister has indicated, women can be very highly qualified. They can be appointed on merit. But this amendment would cause the Secretary of State to look carefully at qualified women nominees and not overlook them by assuming that all the members should be male.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: I very much hope that my noble friend will not be persuaded to accept this amendment. It is very harmful, in principle, to try to decide in advance on the sex of the persons when appointing to a body of this kind. I am sure that that would be a very bad precedent. If the amendment is to have any effect at all, it must involve sometimes not appointing the best person available and that would be a great mistake. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will be quite firm on this matter and ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: I hope that the Minister will change his mind and accept the amendment. Women find it very derogatory to know that they comprise over 50 per cent. of the population and yet continue to hear remarks that there may not be enough of sufficient ability. It is a very easy argument to put forward. The inference to be drawn is that if three women are asked for they will not be on the list because of ability. It is not mutually exclusive. Of course the decision has to be made on ability, but also on the basis of open and equal access. I suggest that that has not been applied.

For instance, I gather that that has been the policy of government departments for some years now. As the then co-chairman of the Womens' National Commission nearly a decade ago we were pleading with government departments to ensure that women were on lists which were being considered for public appointments. Yet when one looks at public appointments throughout the whole range of government departments one still sees few women being appointed. Of course there are more than there used to be, but they are still insufficient in number.

Rather than saying that this amendment would be a retrograde move, I suggest that it would be an extremely progressive one which would be seen by women in the community as making a real and constructive step as regards pensions. At the moment they are in an inferior position to their male counterparts in society and pension funds. This amendment will be seen as making a genuine, real and constructive step forward in giving to women the right that they should have. Unfortunately, in the structure of too many organisations they do not have that right. This is a new body. It has been quite

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rightly said at an earlier stage in Committee that the regulatory body is at the heart of the pension changes which we are to see. For that reason I believe it is an extremely sensible amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I too support my noble friend on this amendment. I do not believe that there is any division in the Committee. We want a regulatory body which is made up of the most skilled and competent people, representing the greatest breadth of experience, to do this work.

What the Minister has failed to take on board is that we are not saying women are inferior and therefore need a special track onto the board. On the contrary, there are very many highly skilled and able women who have experience of occupational pensions. What we are saying—and what the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, have not taken on board—is that women in the labour market and in the pensions world, by virtue of their gender, for the most part have a different experience of how the pension system works than most men. If the regulatory body is to be effective it should ensure that its membership contains the greatest possible breadth of experience. A regulatory body which does not contain women—and it could not and may not under these procedures—will be denied the advantage of the distinctive experience of what is meant by being in the labour market, paying into an occupational pension scheme and enjoying it.

I have all the volumes of the Cabinet Appointments Committee. In almost every other field of public employment that I am aware of the Government are not only anxious to appoint women, but actually list in that document the appointments by gender. The Government believe that significant. Yet why in this measure which affects women, perhaps as much as anything in any other walk of life, are the Government not willing to concede that women have something distinctive to offer which should be reflected in the composition of the regulatory authority?

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