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Lord Smith of Leigh: My Lords, the noble Lord has left me two minutes before the estimated rising time of the House in which to reply to his suggestion that this Bill should not pass. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that this Bill had a very adequate Second Reading. It was considered by a Select Committee which was unanimous in its recommendations that, other than the undertakings which were freely given, the Bill should go forward in this House unamended. We have had a long debate this evening and a number of amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, all of which, after considerable debate, he decided to withdraw. If he did not think the Bill was adequate in those areas, he had an opportunity to press those amendments, but he chose not to do so.
I believe that the Bill should be passed. We understand that Merseyside is beginning its renaissance. The regeneration of Merseyside is now happening. If that development is going to take place, it needs a transport system that will allow it to continue. The Bill views the Mersey tunnels not merely as a means of access between the two parts of the city, but as an integral part of the Merseyside transport system. It seeks to try to achieve some modal shift, which will not happen if we do not have the money to invest in public transport in Merseyside. I do not know when my noble friend Lord Harrison used the tunnels, but when travelling in peak hours, he would find that they operate at approximately 95 per cent of capacity. The growth of traffic predicted over the next few years will mean that they become fully congested.
House adjourned at eleven minutes past ten o'clock.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff): Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, I remind your Lordships of two points of procedure. Noble Lords will speak standing, and the House has agreed that there should be no Divisions in a Grand Committee. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn. If there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, the Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and resume after 10 minutes.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 5, 9, 10, 35 and 36. The amendments are designed to provide for greater accountability and better parliamentary scrutiny. We are supported in these by the Royal British Legion, the Forces Pension Society and the War Widows Association. I am very grateful to all those organisations for the great help they have given me and my noble friend with our amendments.
At the outset of consideration in Grand Committee, and in the context of the amendments, I suggest that we must bear in mind the overriding principle that the Armed Forces deserve to be treated differently from the rest of the country. They have total reliance on their employer, the MoD, for fair treatment, without recourse. They have no representation or professional association to secure equitable treatment.
We wish to ensure that future major changes to the schemes involve proper consultationour Amendment No. 9and to ensure that Parliament is able to suggest changes to the schemes. We recommend that changes to the schemes in the future should be by statutory instrument subject to affirmative procedureAmendments Nos. 10 and 35. That would allow for consultation with interested groups before final secondary legislation was presented to Parliament for approval.
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We are not in principle trying to hamper the Government's tweaking and adjusting of the scheme to suit different circumstances. We do not want to make the whole process too cumbersome. Her Majesty's Government must be allowed to make day-to-day changes for the benefit of servicemen and pensioners. We are, however, saying that since the measures in the Bill are completely new, the Government should set in stone certain things that can be changed by coming to the House and seeking permission. We do not believe it right to give the Government unfettered powers to produce whatever variation of the scheme they want. The Commons Defence Select Committee was concerned that,
"When it comes to negotiating pension and compensation entitlements, it seems to us that the Armed Forces are disadvantaged, because they have no one to negotiate on their behalf as employees. Parliament therefore has a vital role to play in ensuring that the Armed Forces get the pension and compensation schemes they deserve . . . any amendments to the schemes which could negatively affect the benefits of personnel and their dependants under the schemes should also be approved by Parliament".
Our amendments would provide Parliament with a proper oversight through the use of affirmative resolutions. I cannot see any reason why the Government should object unless they have something to hide. I beg to move.
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