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Lord Astor of Hever: I thank the Minister for clarifying that point. I am pleased that the Government are keeping open the earmarking alternative. These are complicated issues and I would like to take advice on the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 59 and 60 not moved.]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 61:


Page 100, line 31, leave out ("22A or")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 62 to 67:


Page 100, line 48, leave out from ("arrangement",") to end of line 49
Page 101, line 4, leave out ("22A or")
Page 101, line 20, after first ("of") insert ("any of")
Page 101, line 20, leave out ("any of sections 22A to 24D above") and insert ("this Part of this Act")
Page 101, line 41, leave out ("22A or")
Page 102, line 29, leave out ("21(2A)") and insert ("21A(1)")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22 [Extension to overseas divorces etc.]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 68:


Page 26, line 18, leave out ("22A or")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 69:


After Clause 22, insert the following new clause--

POWER TO MAKE CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS OF PART III

(" .--(1) If any amendment by the Family Law Act 1996 of Part II or IV of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 comes into force before the day on which any provision of this Part comes into force, the Lord Chancellor may by order make such consequential amendment of that provision as he thinks fit.
(2) No order under this section may be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 23 [Scope of mechanism]:

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 70:


Page 27, line 2, at end insert--
("( ) An order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.")

6 Jul 1999 : Column 823

The noble Lord said: I can deal with this amendment briefly because it has been accepted by the Government. Clause 23(1) says:


    "Pension sharing is available under this Chapter in relation to a person's shareable rights under any pension arrangement other than an excepted public service pension scheme". Clause 23(3) says:


    "For the purposes of subsection (1), a public service pension scheme is excepted if it is specified by order made by such Minister of the Crown or government department as may be designated by the Treasury as having responsibility for the scheme". Under the scheme of delegated legislation in the Bill, the order under Clause 23(3) at present does not require either the affirmative or negative procedure and can simply be made without notice by a Minister of the Crown.

The explanation given by the Government for not requiring a statutory instrument with either the affirmative or negative procedure was that the exception was intended to apply only to a small number of cases. It applied in particular to the pensions provided by statute for the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons and a few other cases where, if there were pension sharing, it was impossible to calculate the pension debit on an actuarial basis because the pensions became payable not on reaching a particular age but on expiration of the office to which they were attached.

If the provision were as limited as that on the face of the Bill, there might have been a justification for saying that the matter could be left to an order without any parliamentary procedure. However, as drafted, Clause 23(3) could apply a good deal more widely and would give a Minister of the Crown the power to accept any public service pension scheme. That was pointed out by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee which recommended that the negative procedure should be used in the case of any order made under this subsection.

I therefore tabled an amendment to that effect. The Government have accepted the proposition and have tabled Amendment No. 143B. In those circumstances, I shall in due course be happy to withdraw my amendment. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Higgins: The Committee will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for tabling the amendment. It arises from the points made by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and has been the subject of correspondence. The committee suggested that Clause 23 had considerable power; indeed, the issue of pension sharing generally is of considerable importance. Therefore, the Committee might wish to consider whether the Bill should be amended to provide parliamentary control of this power, at least by negative procedure.

In a slip of the tongue, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said "by" negative procedure. I believe that in practice it is said "at least by" negative procedure. Nonetheless, Amendment No. 142B is designed to meet the point and we are prepared to settle for negative

6 Jul 1999 : Column 824

procedure in this case. I hope that the Minister will therefore press ahead with her amendment with enthusiasm.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I cannot resist such an invitation. I can be brief. Clause 23 sets out the scope of the pension sharing mechanism. Pension sharing is available in relation to a person's shareable rights under any arrangement other than an excepted public service scheme.

Subsection (3) provides that a public service scheme is excepted if it is specified by order made by such Minister of the Crown or government department as may be designated by the Treasury as having responsibility for the scheme.

During the debate in Committee in another place, the Government stated clearly that they intended to use this power only to except the three schemes covering the great offices of state--currently, the Prime Minister, Speaker and Lord Chancellor--and in due course the First Minister and the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.

The difficulty with the pension schemes of these great offices of state is that the pension comes into payment immediately the postholder leaves office, regardless of the period of office. Since the date of leaving office can only normally be guessed at, that makes it virtually impossible to value the pension rights accurately. However, we have made clear our intention that the pension rights of all other public servants should be available for pension sharing.

Nonetheless, we accept that this power is wide and agree with the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee that its use should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. I am pleased to say that that is why we have brought forward Amendment No. 143B to Clause 78. This amendment will ensure that the use of the power to except public service schemes from pension sharing will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny through the negative procedure. We believe that Clause 78, which generally deals with provisions for making regulations or orders under the Act, is the best place for such an amendment.

We are all agreed on this issue--I hope that the noble Lords, Lord Higgins and Lord Goodhart, and I speak for the Committee--and I hope that noble Lords will be content to withdraw their amendment and accept Amendment No. 143B.

Lord Goodhart: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Astor of Hever moved Amendment No. 70A:


Page 27, line 2, at end insert--
("(4) The provisions in this Chapter override any provision of a pension arrangement to which they apply to the extent that the provisions of this Chapter conflict with them.")

The noble Lord said: This probing amendment is intended to provide clarity. The insurance industry has argued that the provisions in Part IV must be wholly overriding, that is, applied directly to schemes without

6 Jul 1999 : Column 825

the need to amend scheme rules. This was done for the Pensions Act 1995. An announcement from the Government had led us to believe that it would be the case with these provisions, but certain provisions such as those in Clause 28 which amend the Pension Schemes Act 1993 in respect of safeguarded rights have not been made overriding. This will cause unnecessary and burdensome complications for pension scheme trustees, who will be left to make technically difficult amendments to a very large number of schemes.

The burden in time will be large. The insurance industry tells me that it will need at least 15 months from seeing the detailed requirements, which will be set out in regulations, to implementation of the provisions on pension sharing, if the legislation is wholly overriding. If it is not, a much longer period will be needed.

I should be grateful if the Minister could confirm that Part IV will be wholly overriding, so that the trustees do not have to face the unnecessary burden and complication of changing the rules of a very large number of schemes. I beg to move.


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