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Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 166A and 166B as amendments to Commons Amendment No. 166.

Moved, That Amendments Nos. 166A and 166B, as amendments to Commons Amendment No. 166, be agreed to.--(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Amendments Nos. 166A and 166B agreed to.

On Question, Commons Amendment No. 166, as amended, agreed to.


167

Clause 117, page 88, line 8, after 'Act' insert 'except paragraph 15 of Schedule 7'.


168

Page 88, line 8, at end insert--


'( ) Section 204(6) of the 1990 Act (power to extend to Isle of Man and Channel Islands) applies to the provisions of this Act amending that Act.'.
169

Page 88, line 9, after 'the' insert 'other'.


170

Page 88, line 12, leave out subsection (4).

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Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 167 to 170 en bloc. I have already spoken to these amendments.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 167 to 170.--(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

257

Schedule 3, page 112, leave out lines 15 and 16.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I beg to move that this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 257. I should like also to speak to Amendment No. 258. This minor amendment removes the need for Treasury consent in respect of remuneration, allowances, pensions and compensation to members of the BSC and similarly of the recruitment, remuneration and so on of its employees. The Government's policy is that the responsibility for such routine financial matters should rest with the Secretary of State alone.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 257.--(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS

258

Schedule 3, page 113, line 18, leave out from 'State' to end of line.


259

Schedule 5, page 117, line 16, after 'enforceable' insert 'by or'.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 258 and 259. I have already spoken to these amendments.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 258 and 259.--(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

260

Schedule 5, page 118, line 7, at end insert--


'(aa) rights and liabilities of the BBC under any agreement or arrangement for the payment of pensions, allowances and gratuities,'.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 260. This relates to the sale by the BBC of its transmission services. The bulk of the amendments relating to this topic are of a technical nature and relate to various taxation and accounting matters which arise when an entity moves from the public to the private sector. In selling its transmission assets the BBC is likely to proceed either by trade sale of the assets direct or through the creation of a wholly owned subsidiary and then the sale of that subsidiary. A flotation is unlikely, but not impossible. The provisions now incorporated in the Bill are designed to ensure that this process can take place without accounting and taxation distortions or unnecessary constraints.

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Amendment No. 260 deals with the pension rights of BBC transmission staff. Your Lordships may recall that during our debate on Third Reading we discussed an amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, on this subject. I described the options that would be available to staff transferring with the transmission services, but indicated that the Government would consider the matter further and, if necessary, bring forward an amendment for the avoidance of doubt, making clear that pension obligations could form part of the BBC transfer scheme submitted for the Secretary of State's approval. That is what this amendment does. It adds pension rights and liabilities to the list of property at paragraph (3) of Schedule 5 to the Bill to which a transfer scheme may relate. Pensions will thus be brought explicitly within the scope of a transfer scheme. Under Clause 111, the Secretary of State's approval is needed for any transfer scheme made by the BBC. This will provide an additional safeguard for BBC transmission staff.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 260.--(Lord Inglewood.)

AMENDMENT TO COMMONS AMENDMENT NO. 260

260A

Line 3, after ("pensions") insert ("(including under any agreement or arrangement for the bulk transfer of an appropriate accrued pensions surplus for the payment of pensions)")

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I shall not detain the House too long on this amendment, but I feel that I must speak to it. It will amend Amendment No. 260 from the other place, which we support.

I feel the need to speak because the first time that we debated this issue was at Third Reading and the Minister kindly said that he would take away the amendment and look at it and that an amendment would be forthcoming when the matter came before another place. In fact, an amendment was not forthcoming at Committee stage in another place, when it could have been debated in full. An amendment was not tabled by the Government until Report stage in another place, when, on 11th June, the Minister accepted that the trustees' duty to all members of the scheme was to provide equitable treatment (Hansard, col. 638.) That is where the difference between us lies.

The amendment now before us will provide that the Bill itself, on the privatisation of BBC transmission services, will carry with it a requirement not only for the pension rights of employees to transfer on privatisation, but also for an appropriate accrued pension surplus to go with them. The Minister went on to say (col. 639) that the BBC had given an undertaking that it would make the best endeavours to ensure that protection was there. I suggest that "best endeavours" in this day and age is not good enough. There needs to be protection.

It is true that the amendment seeks to provide what is called a bulk transfer or a mirror image scheme. It seeks equity between the employees of the BBC transmission services now and the agreement which was applied

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when the IBA services were transferred. This issue was raised when I moved the amendment at Third Reading in this House.

The Minister in this Chamber (and indeed the Minister in another place) said that there were three options and choices. The employees could leave their pension where it was with the BBC fund and it would increase in line with the RPI or other increases given. That may well be justified and good advice to give. The employees could transfer to a personal pension scheme, which undoubtedly would be a money purchase scheme and not provide benefits for their families; or they could transfer to a new company scheme, and I shall return briefly to that point later.

The Minister said that this is not like the IBA transfer in that it is not a privatisation into three specific companies. In this case we do not have the facts; we do not know who will buy the BBC services when they are privatised. Indeed, because there has been so much rumour and so many statements made on this subject, on Tuesday I contacted the office of Sir Christopher Bland and asked for the opinion of the BBC on my amendment. I regret that I am still waiting for a reply. I have managed to get hold of the BBC scheme itself and a report issued by the BBC trustees--they have employee trustees on the board--from December 1995. We are not talking about an insignificant amount. In the 1993 evaluation there was a surplus of £532 million in the scheme. This amendment seeks to ensure that an appropriate part, actuarially assessed, is transferred with the employees when they move out of the employment of the BBC to whoever buys those transmission services.

It is on the record that the view of the Government is that pensions which have accrued will be valued for the individuals. They will have a transfer value. But that transfer value will only relate to their pension in accordance with pensions law. Nothing extra is being given. That is within pensions law. Indeed, many of the provisions can be found in the pensions deed itself, in the BBC scheme.

Because of the surplus that exists, and which has existed for some time--it is equivalent to 7½ per cent. of the scheme's assets and liabilities--the BBC itself has had a reduced employers' contribution. But the employees have still been paying 4½ per cent. of their salary into their scheme. If employees are transferred out of the BBC pension scheme without moving an element of that surplus with them, which I suggest they have accrued and from which they are entitled to benefit, I believe that they are being given short change. My amendment would rectify that. This is not a new idea. If it is said that the IBA sell-off was completely different, one could say that the telecommunications staff were in exactly the same situation and the department agreed that the transfer of the surplus would go with them.

Time and again it has been said that it is the loyalty of the staff of the BBC transmission services that has made it into an organisation which should make it attractive for a sell-off. Time will tell whether or not it is attractive for a sell-off.

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The amendment does not seek special privilege. It does not seek to transfer moneys from the BBC to another employer. It seeks to transfer with the employees the actuarially assessed accrued part of that surplus which I suggest rightly belongs to them. I hope that the House and, more importantly at this stage, the Minister are able to accept it. I beg to move.

Moved, That Amendment No. 260A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 260, be agreed to.--(Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde.)

7.15 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I should like to say just a few sentences from this Bench. We strongly agree with what the noble Baroness has just said. Pensions are one of the most sensitive matters in the world today. In a world where people have to change employment, it is tremendously important that justice should be done. Those in the BBC transmission services under privatisation who go off to other employers have a right in equity to take some of the accrued benefits with them.


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