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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The noble Baroness has identified an important issue. I accept that the statutory consultation procedure which must be undertaken when schemes develop their own rules for selecting member-nominated trustees, or if an employer proposes alternative arrangements under Clause 15, should be commenced promptly and brought to a conclusion within a reasonable period after the commencement of the Act.

Our intention is to prescribe appropriate timescales in regulations under Clause 16(3). Our current intention is that member-nominated trustees, selected in accordance with Clause 14, should be in place within six months of the Act coming into force. Similar arrangements are proposed under Clause 15. We currently intend to require that employers complete the statutory consultation

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procedure and have the arrangements in place within six months. However, that is not something on which we have a closed mind. We intend to consult schemes and individuals who have experience of the day-to-day running of schemes and gauge their opinion on the best timetable for implementing those requirements.

The second part of the amendment is superfluous. It proposes that the authority should issue warning notices to schemes and in the final event be able to appoint an independent trustee to carry out relevant procedures. The authority already has the power to sanction trustees and employers for failing to comply with statutory requirements. The Bill also already contains a power for the authority to remove existing trustees and appoint an independent trustee (under Clause 6) to ensure that statutory duties are carried out. However, I do not believe that it would be sensible, as this amendment would do, to fetter the authority's discretionary powers to examine the merits of each case and decide on the appropriate action.

I hope that with that explanation the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I thank the Minister for that reply. We shall obviously study it in Hansard to see whether we are confident that the interlocking of the clauses will serve the function that he suggests. It is our belief that he has given the regulator power to penalise but not power to impose a solution. If that is incorrect, we shall obviously need to come back on it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 114:

Page 8, line 3, after ("15(2)") insert ("or any corresponding provisions in force in Northern Ireland").

The noble Lord said: For the convenience of the Committee I shall speak also to Amendment No. 115. Technically speaking, these are drafting amendments which correct an error in the Bill by moving the phrase,

    "or any corresponding provision in force in Northern Ireland",

from the end of Clause 16(2) and inserting it in the first line of that subsection. Its purpose is to clarify that the Northern Ireland provisions referred to are those which correspond to the selection of member-nominated trustees and not to Section 591B of the Taxes Act 1988. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The Minister has convinced us by his eloquence that this is a technical amendment. We are therefore happy to accept it.

Lord Monkswell: On a technical point, I wonder whether I may point out to the Government that the reference to the Taxes Act 1988 is not recognised by the Printed Paper Office. After some investigation, it was found that the provision related to the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988. It may be worth having that in Hansard for future reference.

Lord Lucas: If a further technical amendment is necessary, we shall bring that forward.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 115:

Page 8, line 5, leave out ("or any corresponding provisions in force in Northern Ireland").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 115A:

Page 8, line 17, at end insert:
("( ) Regulations made under subsection (3) above shall not specify a time period of more than six months for making of arrangements under sections 14(1) or 15(2), or one year for the selection of trustees in pursuance of such arrangements, both periods to run from the date of this Act coming into force.").

The noble Baroness said: I shall be brief, because the substantive points should be made on Amendment No. 116. Currently, the clause is open-ended, allowing the Secretary of State to take as long as he likes to bring it into force. We are apprehensive, because the Government have a record in previous pension legislation of putting proposals in legislation but not then bringing them forward; for example, there was a registrar of pensions scheme with important powers in the 1985 Act; and there were statutory increases for pensioners in the Social Security Act 1990. The amendment is intended to prevent the Government from dragging their feet on this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am having a little difficulty with Amendment No. 115A. Perhaps the noble Baroness will explain it to me in a little more detail.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: It is grouped with Amendment No. 113A, which was not moved by my noble friend Lady Turner.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I realise that it was grouped with several amendments in respect of which I had a long speaking note. My trouble is that I must try to dissect that speaking note in order to find the appropriate part. I do not wish to bore the Committee by dealing with all the amendments in the group.

Amendment No. 115A asks me to insert:

    "Regulations made under subsection (3) above shall not specify a time period of more than six months for making of arrangements under sections 14(1) or 15(2), or one year for the selection of trustees in pursuance of such arrangements, both periods to run from the date of this Act coming into force".

I covered the matter when dealing with the regulations that we would introduce in respect of time limits. It is better that the matter is left to regulations rather than being put on the face of the Bill. I explained some of the time limits and I believe that we should be able to change them after consultation. Furthermore, as time passes they may require to be changed because circumstances may arise which suggest that that would be good sense. I believe that that is the best way to proceed. To do otherwise would incorporate into the Bill the two time limits of six months and 12 months, which are best left to regulations.

I understand the laudable desire to put the them onto the face of the Bill. However, before putting the requirements into place we must consult all the pension scheme people and individuals with experience of the day-to-day running of the schemes. We expect the arrangements to be in place six months after the enactment of the Bill; that is, by

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autumn 1997. We shall take account of the responses that we receive to consultations before making that final decision.

I am sorry about my hesitation in trying to find my way through four amendments, three of which have disappeared. I hope that with that explanation the noble Baroness will be satisfied.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: We did not mean to throw the Minister. We are conscious of the time and the number of amendments that the Committee has yet to explore. I am sorry if the Minister was caused inconvenience in disentangling his briefing.

The Minister conceded the substance of the point and said that the Government expect to bring the arrangements into force within six months of the passing of the Act. We believe that the matter should be on the face of the Bill because where on several occasions it has been open-ended the Government have not delivered. We have had soothing words in Committee and a failure to act in practice.

I realise that we have had Pepper v. Hart and that we understand the provisions in terms of what the Minister said. Although the Minister has given an indication of the way in which the thinking will go, we remain uncomfortable that such an important issue can be discarded simply because the Minister has not given himself a time limit by which he must introduce the provision. I do not wish to raise the big issue of regulations now, but we shall return to the matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 115B not moved.]

6.15 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil moved Amendment No. 116:

Page 8, line 18, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: I can deal with this matter briefly. I have had occasion to raise it during the course of a number of Bills. There are in the Bill about 100 lines of words or almost three pages of "material" which relate to this matter. I use the politest description that I can think of. Then in subsection (5) we are told:

    "The Secretary of State may by regulations modify sections 14, 15 and this section in their application to prescribed cases".

If the impression is not to be given that the Secretary of State has a low opinion of Parliament and believes that its procedures can be taken for granted and its decisions altered with a stroke of the pen, further explanation is required. I entirely exempt my noble friend from any breath of criticism. He is merely the messenger, which is sometimes a difficult role to fulfil.

We are dealing with what has been recognised during our protracted debates on the issue as member-nominated trustees. It is a matter of great importance. Once agreement has been reached in Parliament it is unwise to allow Ministers too much discretion to tamper with it just as they wish.

There was a time during my career when I had tremendous respect for all Secretaries of State. During the succeeding years Secretaries of State of all parties have

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taught me to be a little more discriminating. Therefore, I say to my noble friend that I look forward with eagerness to being satisfied that his right honourable friend understands what he is doing and is not merely looking for a licence to alter Acts of Parliament merely for reasons which appear to him, but to no one else, to be good and with only a minimum of consultation.

It is not my intention to divide the Committee on this issue today. I look forward to hearing some honeyed words from my noble friend. I shall then digest them and I am sure that I shall be wholly convinced because I have such regard for him. I beg to move.

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