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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I seem to keep repeating the same point. So far as the provisions in Scotland are concerned and the way in which they differ from those in the courts in England and Wales, I have said that although the two jurisdictions are different, the difference is not great. The research project will help us determine how great the difference is. We fully appreciate the arguments and agree with the concern expressed on this issue as divorce increases. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, said, a pension is a very considerable part of the wealth that has been created by the couple in marriage. We are prepared to look carefully at whether to amend the 1973 Act to place greater emphasis on the need for pension rights to be taken into account by the court. I accept that what I have said does not go nearly far enough for most Members of the Committee who want to get into the difficult issue of dividing pension rights but I hope that it will certainly go part of the way to ensuring that the courts take into account not only the ordinary savings and the property but also what could be a very significant part of the wealth created by the couple; namely the pension rights.

Lord Monkswell: We are—

Noble Lords: Baroness Young.

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Baroness Young: We have certainly had a very good debate. I begin by thanking all those Members of the Committee who have spoken in support of this series of amendments. I do not think that I have ever heard such unanimity of view from all parts of the Chamber on any one issue. I hope very much that my noble friend the Minister will convey both the strength and the unanimity of feeling to his right honourable friend the Secretary of State. Both are very unusual.

They are unusual, not—if I may say so to my noble friend the Minister—because we are being very emotional about this matter, but because we believe that society has changed and that there is an injustice in the present state of affairs which needs to be put right. It could be put right in the course of the passage of this Bill.

In thanking all those who have supported me, I should like to underline some of the points that were made and return to what I thought was the extremely important argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. She explained in considerable detail that the legislation that was passed which governs the ability of an employee to change jobs and to take his pension with him gives us the basis of finding a way of valuing the pension and so of dealing with one of the most difficult of the issues. That legislation is now in place. It is my contention—I believe it would the contention of everyone who has spoken—that all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are there on the table. They simply need to be put together.

I should like to underline the point that was made by my noble friend, Lady Elles, about cost. I said that I had been unable to get precise costings; I understand that that applies also to my noble friend the Minister. It is very difficult to claim the cost of the loss to the Inland Revenue over any of the proposals that are adduced and not to be able to counterbalance it with the cost from the Department of Social Security on social security benefits. In a way, in the second half one is trying to prove a negative, which is an impossible situation. But common sense tells us that there would be a counterbalance in savings. Any information that can be given to us on costs would be very helpful.

I should like to repeat what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter set out clearly; that is, that if we do not do something on this Bill, there is unlikely to be another opportunity to do anything. I find it difficult to believe that another Bill on pensions will be introduced and it would be a curious piece of legislation which simply amended the 1973 Act, if that was proposed as the way forward.

Everyone who spoke drew attention to the difficult cases that exist, including my noble friend Lord Dean. My noble friend Lady Seccombe mentioned some of the examples in the correspondence she received and my noble friend Lord Boardman drew attention to a woman who wanted to disclaim a pension and could not do so. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that we are not defending the pensions industry; the simple fact is that divorce has made life today more complicated and pensions are one of the complicated issues that become part of divorce. Divorce is now a part of life and I for one am sad to think that it is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

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I have considerable sympathy with the comments made by my noble friend when he was winding up. I was a Minister and feel deeply for him in the position in which he finds himself—probably more deeply than anyone else who spoke in the debate this afternoon. I want to say something constructive and helpful at the close of the debate and I hope that my noble friend will take back the strength of feeling and unanimity of view on this matter.

The Committee wants the Government to bring forward an amendment to correct the injustice which exists. I believe I can speak for the Committee, including the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, when I say that none of us pretends that our amendments are perfect. We want a government amendment. If that is not forthcoming by the Report stage, we would be satisfied with an undertaking that it will be brought forward before the Bill completes its passage through Parliament.

I doubt that any one of us fully understands the purpose of the further research. Though my noble friend mentioned it on several occasions, it is difficult to see what it is that we are looking for that we do not already have. I believe that my noble friend is worried that some proposals may smack of retrospective legislation. I am well aware of the difficulties that arose over the Child Support Agency which, in principle, had the support of everyone and then ran into difficulties. One of the more obvious difficulties was that in a clean break divorce people were being asked for something extra.

On the issue before us I do not believe that anybody is asking for a retrospective view. We are looking to the future. I am against retrospective legislation and believe it to be quite wrong. However, one cannot guarantee that there will not be any hard cases. In my experience, whatever one does in public life, hard cases arise as well as cases that one cannot imagine beforehand. But I hope that the Minister will recognise that we are not advocating retrospective legislation.

I shall read carefully what my noble friend the Minister said on this matter. But I hope that he too will reflect carefully on what happened this afternoon. When such a strength of feeling exists on an issue; when it is a matter of justice and when there is an opportunity to put matters right, that is the moment to act. The Minister would bring great credit on himself if he could do something today on this important issue. On the strength of what he said and because I want to give him the opportunity to bring forward an amendment at a later stage, I shall not press the amendment today. Of course we shall return to it at the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 83, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 84 [Forfeiture, etc.]:

[Amendment No. 166A not moved.]

Clause 84 agreed to.

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4.45 p.m.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 166B:


After Clause 84, insert the following new clause:

Named beneficiary

(".—(1) Subject to subsection (2), any occupational pension scheme which does not contain a rule to provide for the benefits on death to be paid, whether at the same or at a lower rate, to a person who has been nominated by the scheme member as his chosen beneficiary upon death shall be treated as including one.
(2) Where the scheme member is married, the nominated beneficiary shall automatically be his spouse.
(3) Every scheme member shall be informed by the trustees of the scheme of his right so to nominate.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 166B will provide a new clause after Clause 84, which deals with forfeiture of pensions. The amendment seeks to correct an omission in the Bill. Its effect would be to allow an unmarried member of a scheme to declare a beneficiary in the event of his or her death while a member of that scheme.

This is neither a new nor a radical idea. In fact, it already applies in many private occupational pension schemes —for example, BT, Unilever, Tate & Lyle, Massey Ferguson, BP and the AA. Those companies already include the provision within their schemes. The amendment would therefore ensure that those private schemes which do not currently provide for such a declaration, will do so if the unmarried member of the scheme chooses to exercise that right. The provision will also change a disparity in the public sector. At the moment 4.5 million public sector workers are affected by rules which do not recognise their partners in the event of death. I refer to the schemes for local council workers, civil servants and even public employees who put their lives on the line day in and day out like policemen and fire fighters.

I suggest that pensions should not be based upon moral judgments or upon the lifestyle that people choose to live. Contributions are paid or assessed as paid for a pension promise at the end of a working life. If that working life is abruptly stopped by the death of the member in the scheme, then in all schemes the widow or widower will benefit. The amendment deals with schemes where members are not married. The latest government figures for 1990 show that 7 per cent. of all people between the ages of 16 and 59 live together but are not married. For men between the ages of 25 and 29 and women between the ages of 20 and 24, the figure increases to 15 per cent. We are not therefore talking of an inconsiderable number of people.

The single factor across all public pension schemes is that a partner who is not married to the scheme member receives nothing in the event of the death of that member under the scheme. Let us look at an example. Being a policeman is a hazardous job where people put their lives on the line day in and day out. Apparently they pay 11 per cent. of their salaries into the pension scheme yet, if an unmarried policeman is killed on duty, his partner receives nothing from the pension scheme. In fact the scheme makes clear that death in service benefits depend on the officer being married. The benefit can be paid to the parent, a brother or sister or a

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child over 19, but not to the partner—who is probably the parent of the officer's children. For example, a young police officer worked for ICI for five years and then entered the police force. He was killed while on duty and left his partner of seven years with a five year-old and a one year-old child. She received absolutely no benefit at all from the police pension scheme. But she received a benefit from ICI for his period of employment with that company.

Fire fighters' pension schemes are payable only to the "married spouse". The principal Civil Service pension scheme says that a pension is payable only to someone you are married to. Yet there are non-pension related benefits where the Government give recognition to a partner who is not married. For instance, if a civil servant has to move home in the course of his job the cost of that move is taken into account despite the fact that his partner may not be married to him. The local government superannuation scheme has no provision to nominate an adult partner to receive an equivalent widow or widower's pension without the member giving up part of his pension. The teachers' superannuation scheme provides for dependants, but those dependants are not the partner; they are the parent, brother or sister, or the widowed step-parent, with whom the member may never have had a close relationship. The partner gets absolutely nothing. The same is true in the National Health Service where nothing can go to the partner who is not married. In some circumstances benefits may go to the brother or sister; yet the death of that member of the pension scheme could leave the family of the member bereft.

The lack of provision for survivors at common law and for same sex partners in long-term relationships offends against equal treatment. This is a gap in the Pensions Bill. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the proposal is not radical and is not new. It is based on a member paying contributions into a fund or being assessed as paying contributions into a fund and at the end of his or her working life getting a benefit. If he or she dies during service the widow or widower in each case will get a benefit. But if they are not married, in many cases in private sector schemes, and in all cases in public sector schemes, they get absolutely nothing. That inequality needs to be rectified. I beg to move.


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