Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I have listened with interest to my noble friend and to the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, and I feel sure that the promoters and the company will read with care what has been said in the course of the debate this evening. I must reiterate

19 Jan 1998 : Column 1316

that the pension schemes are not affected by the Bill and therefore it is not my task this evening to go into the intricacies of the schemes and their surpluses. I fully appreciate that my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, felt it important and convenient to take advantage of Third Reading to air this issue. However, as I understand it, there is nothing special about this case; it is no different from any other merger of any two companies and their pension schemes. The schemes enjoy a comprehensive framework of statutory, regulatory and fiduciary safeguards, which cannot be avoided. They were put in place as a result of the Pensions Act 1995, which followed the Goode Committee Report. The beneficiaries benefit in this way in line with best practice among all major corporate pension schemes in this country. To go further and to make wider or more general changes, as has been requested, would be unprecedented and would single out these schemes compared to all other corporate schemes, when the Bill has no impact on them at all.

The unions are content with the situation. While the promoters would be prepared to consider these concerns, I believe the concerns are of a general nature and are more properly addressed to the Government. It is ironic that the Hill Samuel scheme, which was merged with the TSB scheme in 1991, is now considerably better funded as a result.

Lord St. John of Bletso: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Would the noble Baroness not agree that, despite what she says, this Bill has no connection with the pension schemes and that the Bill makes specific reference in Clause 3 for the transfer to and the vesting in Lloyds of the undertakings of TSB and Hill Samuel? The reference to the undertakings is surely inclusive of the pension surplus of the TSB pension fund.

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, as I understand it, the reference to transfer dates in the Bill is simply a matter of timing and does not in fact affect the contents of the pension schemes or the details of the pension schemes.

Finally, I must reiterate something that I said at Second Reading, that the measure before us today provides simply for an internal reorganisation of the group which is designed to enable Lloyds TSB to get on with what it is good at doing: delivering long-term security and success for the benefit of all its customers and staff and, in doing this, and in seeing the merger through, this is the final full-stop, as it were, in your Lordships' House.

The Bill does go on to another place, where various concerns which may be within or without the terms of the Bill will no doubt be raised again, but I am most grateful to those of your Lordships who have participated in the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a third time.

19 Jan 1998 : Column 1317

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Baroness Hooper.)

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 22 minutes before nine o'clock.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.02 to 8.38 p.m.]

Human Rights Bill [H.L.]

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 5 [Right of Crown to intervene]:

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 3, line 23, after ("Crown,") insert--
("( ) a Scottish Minister, as defined by section 41(2) of the Scotland Act 1998,").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the background to this amendment is the different procedures which will apply in Scotland for dealing on the one hand with an allegation that an Act of Parliament of this Parliament is in some way incompatible with convention rights, and the alternative situation where the argument is that an Act of a Scottish Parliament, once it comes into being, is so flawed.

As I have previously mentioned in discussing this Bill, it is quite possible to foresee the situation in the future where in dealing with a similar topic, for example in the field of law and order or education, a statutory provision in identical terms is enacted by this Parliament to that which is also enacted by the Scottish Parliament and forms part of an Act of that Parliament. Therefore it is quite possible to foresee the situation where a challenge is raised to the compatibility of such a provision with convention rights.

If the challenge to the United Kingdom Act of Parliament were to come first, then in terms of Clause 5 of the Bill a Minister of the Crown could apply to be joined as a party to the proceedings--assisted as a party to the proceedings, as I think we would describe it in Scotland--but the Bill would not allow a Minister of the Scottish Parliament to make such an application. Therefore there would be a possibility of a court in Scotland granting a declarator that the provision of the UK Parliament was incompatible with human rights in the knowledge that there was a similar provision in the Act of the Scottish Parliament which no Minister of the Scottish Executive would be in a position to defend.

In my respectful submission, it would be sensible to amend Clause 5 to allow for the possibility of a Scottish Minister as defined under the Scotland Bill--or the Scotland Act as it presumably will become--to join in such proceedings in a situation such as I have described. That is the purpose of this amendment, to preclude the

19 Jan 1998 : Column 1318

possibility of a court deciding that the UK statute was incompatible without giving the Scottish Executive the right to be heard. I beg to move.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for moving this amendment. I hope that what I say will give assurance to him. Throughout all stages of the Bill the noble and learned Lord has been assiduous in raising all matters of proper concern to Scotland. The effect of the amendment which he proposes would be to entitle a Scottish Minister--that is, a Minister of the Scottish Parliament once it is established--to be joined in proceedings when a court is considering whether to make a declaration of incompatibility.

This amendment, therefore, raises two issues. The more general question is when, if at all, it is appropriate for one Bill, in this case the Human Rights Bill, to be amended to take account of provisions in another Bill, in this case the Scotland Bill, when neither of them has been enacted. There can be no definite answer to this question because it depends on the linkage between the two Bills. As for the relationship between this Bill and the Scotland Bill, I can assure your Lordships that we have been looking with care at how and where they interlink. There are several issues to address. The noble and learned Lord's amendment has picked out one possible issue but I think it would be premature to consider potential amendments while both Bills are in their first Chamber--in the case of this Bill, in your Lordships' House and in the case of the other Bill, the other place.

I think it would be more sensible to wait a while longer before tackling these questions. That will enable the eventual form of the respective Bills to be known with greater certainty. It will also enable us to consider the various possible amendments en bloc rather than considering them in isolation.

The other point concerns the specifics of this amendment. I can see that a case may arise where a court is considering whether to make a declaration of incompatibility in respect of an Act of the Westminster Parliament which covers subject matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Bill. There, I agree, Scottish Ministers would clearly have an interest in the legislation at issue. I can assure the noble and learned Lord that we will be giving serious consideration to this issue and to any other related issues but, as I have said, I think it is premature to address this type of amendment specifically today, although the noble and learned Lord is right to have called attention to it. The Human Rights Bill is ahead of the Scotland Bill in the overall parliamentary timetable, but the whole issue of amendments arising from the relationship between these Bills should perhaps more conveniently be taken as a package when both Bills, and in particular the Scotland Bill, are further forward. In the light of the assurance that I have given, I hope the noble and learned Lord will agree to withdraw his amendment.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, and with the leave of

19 Jan 1998 : Column 1319

the House, may I ask him: is he taking the point that my noble and learned friend has made? I quite see the problem that he is outlining, but it will be very difficult for the House when we get to the Scotland Bill, to remember all the points that have arisen and their context. They are very important points, as he has acknowledged. Is he taking the point that my noble and learned friend has made? Does he consider that something has to be done on this aspect, and will he be producing a solution for it in due course, or is he simply sidestepping the issue?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page