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Lord Brett: My Lords, I rise to express the appreciation of myself and of my noble friends on this side of the House who proposed and persuaded noble Lords that Amendment No. 31 was valid. I apologise in part because, of course, we found that there were technical problems with that particular amendment. However, I am most grateful for the initiative shown both by Treasury officials and by Ministers in seeking to provide the degree of protection that is equal to that which would be available were there to be a statutory provision on the face of the Bill. This has gone a long way and, indeed, will go a tremendous way towards reassuring the staff of NATS that their pension concerns have been taken on board. It will also be of comfort to the trustees.

I have two points for clarification. I should like confirmation that there will be close liaison and consultation with the CAAPS trustees on these matters. Secondly, can my noble friend the Minister confirm my understanding on the following key point? I have in mind a situation where, for example, a contract currently operated by NATS at an airport, or elsewhere, is lost to another provider of services whereby the staff would normally be cheaply transferred. However, subsequently, down the track, there is a requirement for technology and so on which results in redundancy of former NATS staff. If my interpretation is correct, that would fall within the

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NATS pension scheme, and those employees would be entitled to all their pension and redundancy benefits, which are tied into the NATS pension scheme. These are the accrued entitlements about which the staff are most concerned at this most difficult time. I am sure that my noble friend can confirm those two points. I should like, once again, to express my appreciation for the efforts that have been made in this respect.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I wish to welcome this most useful amendment. It will stand the employees in good stead. I should like to thank my noble friends and the Government for the constructive spirit in which the negotiations were carried out and for the wider understandings reached. The words used by my noble friend the Minister regarding the rights of all members of the scheme over and above the particular amendment will be on the record. We are very content with my noble friend's explanation.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, can the Minister confirm something that I believe he said in his introduction; namely, that those employees remaining with the CAA will be in exactly the same position in relation to their pension and other benefits as they would have been if NATS and the CAA had not been separated?

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister and the Government on coming forward with the amendments. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brett, on his persistence in bringing this issue forward. I believe that this House has done a valuable job. When we achieved an amendment on Report on this issue, I believe that the Government

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then said that nothing needed to be done. I am glad that the Government have reconsidered the matter and I congratulate them on that.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this brief debate. I think that I can give all the assurances which have been asked for.

The noble Lord, Lord Brett, asked me to confirm that the Government would remain in close liaison and consultation with the trustees. I can certainly give him that assurance. He asked me what would happen if NATS staff have to transfer to another employer, for example, because NATS loses the contract for services at an airport. I confirm that the noble Lord is correct in thinking that their terms and conditions, including pensions and redundancy terms, would be the same as if they were still employed by NATS. In the situation that he described, the scheme would provide individual legal rights for qualifying staff to stay in the CAA pension scheme, or a scheme at least as good as the CAA pension scheme. This would involve the successful bidder either joining CAAPS as a further non-associated employer, accepting the need to make contributions to the scheme at the level required to maintain the benefits of staff, or persuading the independent third party or the courts that any alternative scheme is at least as good as CAAPS.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, asked me for confirmation that those remaining with the CAA--I think that she meant those remaining with the CAA pension scheme--would not lose out in any way. That is indeed the case. Their scheme will remain in the public sector. I commend the Motion to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at seven minutes past ten o'clock.

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