Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Seear: Surely the Minister must explain to the Committee why there has to be such a sweeping

13 Feb 1995 : Column 494

provision giving powers to alter everything in the clauses. We recognise the fact that there may be certain circumstances in which alterations will have to be made. However, I cannot believe that it is beyond the wit of the Minister and of the mandarins in his department to devise a clause which could appear on the face of the Bill covering the kind of exceptions that he has in mind—and not, therefore, to give the Secretary of State such extraordinary powers to alter by regulation as he sees fit the whole of Clauses 14 and 15. Can the Minister take the matter back and reconsider whether there is some way in which he can put the kind of exceptional powers that he wishes the Secretary of State to exercise on the face of the Bill?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I should point out to the noble Baroness that we are discussing "prescribed cases". I thought that I gave the Committee an indication of the kind of pension funds and trustees that we believe we shall need to exempt from some parts—not all—of the two clauses. I should have thought that some of the points that I outlined in my speech show just how complicated the matter is and how deeply difficult it would be to reach the nice, simple solution preferred by the noble Baroness.

Lord Monkswell: I believe that we are entitled to raise the point that such a provision may be acceptable if it is felt that at some time in the future a problem will arise which will need to be tackled in a different way. However, from what the Minister said, it seems that the Government know that there are problems and that they will have to tackle them in different ways; but they are not prepared to include such provision in the Bill. They propose to insert the mechanism to re-write the three clauses without advising Parliament how such clauses will be re-written, even in broad outline. I am most concerned about the Government's philosophy of recognising a problem and the difficulty of tackling it, while not being prepared to provide for it on the face of the Bill.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I should like, first, to express my gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter for supporting my amendment. Perhaps I may take up one point which I should not have dared to refer to without the authority of the noble and learned Lord. I have in mind the building in Marsham Street which we all hope will come down. If, by chance, my noble friend the Minister has a spare moment, perhaps he will pass on just a word of my interest as to when that ghastly building will be pulled down. Alternatively, are they going to leave it to fall down, because I believe it is making some progress in that respect? I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord for referring to the matter.

I had also intended to overwhelm the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, with my thanks. However, I then found myself stunned by her ingratitude—after all, I raised a point that she seemed to think was quite useful—as she made a muddle of my name. I hope that that was a

13 Feb 1995 : Column 495

genuine slip of the tongue and did not reflect her true opinion. I must ask the noble Baroness to understand how sensitive I am.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I was once told that what one needed to know about people was whether they liked their compliments forehand or backhand. I can assure the noble Lord that the aligning together of the two names was indeed a backhanded compliment.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: From whichever side of the court the noble Baroness's compliments come, I shall look at them with a good deal of suspicion in the future. I assure my noble friend that I was not accusing him of any ulterior motives. I am complaining about something that he has not really removed. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has just referred to the point. Why is it necessary to use the blanket phrase, "We can do anything we like to anything in Clauses 14, 15 and 16"? I must admit that I have not read every word with all that care. However, Clause 14(3) and (7) are examples of this matter. I cannot believe that my noble friend's right honourable friend the Secretary of State will be troubled in his sleep overnight with the thought that he may need powers to amend those provisions. They seem to me to be a cardinal part of the Bill. To take this broad brush approach to questions of this kind is a bad habit for Ministers to get into.

There may well be points of detail as regards which there is no purpose in having to bring back an amending Bill to Parliament. That is accepted. However, it is the broad brush approach that I find difficult. This Chamber has been discussing this matter of member-nominated trustees for some hours now. Obviously the Committee has views on this matter. I think it is bad for the Government to say, "It does not matter what we agree today. If it is convenient to us—without worrying to inform you—we will change this by regulation". I do not think that is good enough. I hope that my noble friend will at least say that he will take a closer look at the clauses concerned and retain this power where it is really necessary and dispense with it for those parts of the clauses where it is not called for.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I will—as I always do—consider what has been said in the debate. However, I wish to make it clear that any exceptions will be for specific kinds of schemes. I do not think the power is here simply to decide that we will not bother with member-nominated trustees for all the schemes. This is a matter of specific schemes. I have tried to outline the kinds of special schemes which exist among the 150,000 schemes that have hugely different patterns. It is for that reason that we feel we need this power. My noble friend has already said that he will not press this amendment. However, I can assure him that we will consider what has been said and see whether there is some way in which we can perhaps allay some of his worries if possible, but which at the same time will allow us to be able to deal with those special schemes which may require some special attention.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: Will my noble friend, when considering this matter, bear in mind that some of us feel very strongly about powers as wide as this to

13 Feb 1995 : Column 496

proceed by regulation and to deal with a statute in this way? Unless he can come forward at the next stage with some limitation on this power, he may find that many of us who are on the whole loyal supporters of the Government will not support him.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I think I was beginning to get the flavour of that even before my noble friend's intervention.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I am grateful to my noble friend. I realise that he is not in the easiest of situations. I very much welcome what he said and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 p.m.

The Earl of Buckinghamshire moved Amendment No. 116A:


Page 8, line 19, at end insert:
("( ) The Secretary of State may, on application to him by the trustees of a trust scheme, by order modify sections 14, 15 and this section in their application to that scheme.").

The noble Earl said: Clause 16 allows the Secretary of State to make modifications to Clauses 14 and 15 regarding member-nominated trustees, but only in general classes. This amendment would allow trustees who felt they had a particular case to apply to the Secretary of State to have their scheme considered separate from a general class of schemes. This is a probing amendment. Scheme rules vary so greatly that there may be particular circumstances that may be missed by general class rules. Would the Minister allow the trustees of those schemes to make an application for exemption? I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I think my noble friend is inviting me to go a little further than I went in the previous debate. I hope we do not re-run that and bring everyone to their feet again. We do not believe that the arrangement he proposes is necessary. Clauses 14 and 15 will be sufficiently flexible to allow the majority of schemes to comply with them. Where it is clear—this was the point of the previous debate—that certain types of scheme would have considerable difficulty implementing the requirements, the Secretary of State has a power, in the subsection we have just discussed, to modify these clauses with regard to these types of schemes.

If we decide to use this power to modify, it will be to cater for types of schemes, not individual schemes. As I have already explained in my view the main category who may wish to take advantage of this power, will be industry-wide schemes (schemes with several, often hundreds of non-associated employers). To allow individual schemes to apply to the Secretary of State for modification would be costly as well as difficult to control and administer. I do not think that would be desirable and I also think that I would run into exactly the kind of roadblock that was set for me on the previous amendment. I hope with that explanation my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Buckinghamshire: I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his reply. I was aware that

13 Feb 1995 : Column 497

we could be going backwards in coming forward as one might say. But on the basis of his reply, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 116B not moved.]

Clause 16, as amended, agreed to.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page