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Lord McCarthy: My Lords, I want to raise a point on the first amendment only. Other Members on this side of the House may want to take the Government into the details of Amendments Nos. 11, 20, 21, and 56. The first amendment, Amendment No. 4, amends Clause 5. The Government are concerned with the grounds upon which an employer is justified in discriminating. Many grounds are given in the Bill, as it is, upon which an employer can avoid the effects of the Bill because the discrimination is justified.
Why do we need that at this point in the Bill? Should we not be rather concerned to see it there, because on this occasion, unlike the 25 amendments we have recently had put before us, the Government were good enough and kind enough to give us some notes to the clause itself and the amendments to the clause. I am reading from the note which was sent to us. It says that the first powerthat is to say, the one that I am discussingenables regulations under Clause 5 dealing with justification for less favourable treatment to stipulate that additional cost is a valid ground of justification.
Does that mean that any additional cost is a valid ground? Is this an attempt to increase the circumstances in which an allegation or assertion of costs becomes an automatic ground for getting around the effects of the Bill? I say that because, of course, it is unnecessary in the sense that in other parts of the clause and in Clause 6 the Government have quite a lot on the face of the Bill about costs. Clause 6(4) provides:
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, perhaps I may add to the worries. We are all in some difficulty in discussing this provision on the Disability Discrimination Bill. The Minister says that in some ways we should be discussing it on a pensions Bill. Even more to the point, we should be discussing, not on Report, let alone on Third Reading, but in Committee in order to extract from the Minister the full implications of what we suspect are major clauses which we cannot discuss but which may have significant repercussions on the poverty of, or well being of, disabled people after retirement. We are all handicapped in this.
With the leave of the House many of us would welcome the Minister being able to add to the discussion so that we can return to these matters. We have before us extremely important, technical and late amendments to the Bill which perhaps should have been covered elsewhere. We hope and believe that the amendments on pensions are benign, but we have some worries. We just do not know how to extract answers from the Minister so that we can come back to him and pursue him further. The amendments have come so late, and improperly late, that we cannot use the procedures of the House in an appropriate and acceptable way.
The Government, I am sure, are right in their belief that disabled people may experience discrimination in the field of pensions. I refer in particular to Amendments Nos. 11 and 20. The Government need to make clear the rights of disabled people. We obviously welcome and support that. Behind that, of course, is the belief that disabled people are sick more often and therefore more costly to employ. As the Minister will know, because the research from his own department makes it clear, 44 per cent. of employers said that they found no difference in sickness absence, and 32 per cent. said that their disabled staff were off sick less often than non-disabled people. Similarly, the 1990 Devon Carers Study concluded that 93 per cent. of employers found their disabled staff had a better attendance record than the non-disabled. Therefore, the Government are right to appreciate the gap between the reality and people's perceptions of the problem.
However, we are handicapped because we cannot use a Committee-style approach to these difficult amendments. Our worries include the following problems and perhaps the Minister will help us. The amendments appear to exempt employers from having to make reasonable adjustments in the pension field. The Government have given us helpful notes but not helpful examples. Will the Minister be so kind as to give us examples?
Secondly, will the Minister tell us more about the conditions under which disabled people might be prevented from joining a pension scheme? For example, they may have diabetes, but the illnesses associated with that condition may develop late. What would happen, for example, if on joining a company a disabled person did not join an occupational scheme but subsequently wished to do so and the trustees sought to reject the
It appears, too, as though occupational pension schemes, and therefore trustees guided by actuaries and accountants, will be able to weight contributions according to risk. Will the Minister clarify that area? I understand that at present it would not be appropriate for an occupational pension scheme to load heavier contributions on someone who was, say, a smoker, even though, in terms of absence from work and subsequent sickness and dependency, his or her health record might be more serious than that of a disabled person. Will the Minister explain why such discrimination might apply to disabled people?
We have a whole series of questions on which we should like to push the Minister. If he is unable to answer them all or if we feel unhappy about his answers perhaps we may, with the leave of the House, seek permission to question him further during the course of this debate.
Lord Carter: My Lords, it is a little unusual for the three of us to have to come to the Dispatch Box but it is entirely the Government's fault. These amendments were tabled late and we are having to have, in a sense, a mini-Committee stage.
As regards occupational pensions, will the Minister confirm that the self-employed retirement annuities, the personal pension schemes and so forth, which are not occupational pension schemes but are still pensions, are caught by Clause 16(3), which states that the examples of service include:
I assume that means that all other pension schemes, apart from occupational pension schemesthat is, a self-employed retirement annuity or whateverwould not be able to discriminate against a disabled self-employed person. When amendments are tabled late one must ask such questions.
I turn to the point that was made extremely well by my noble friend Lady Hollis but from a different direction. The Minister may have seen an excellent report entitled "There may be trouble ahead". It is not about the future of the Conservative Government but about occupational pensions and permanent health insurance. It is produced as a result of a joint study by the Disability Alliance and the Disablement Income Group. They clearly make points about which we are all aware: that disabled people are the least likely to belong to an occupational pension scheme; that people with a pre-retirement disability tend to receive less occupational pension than non-disabled colleagues; that an occupational pension can be paid only to someone who has retired from work permanently; and that payments to people who have not retired can be made only under an occupational sick pay scheme.
All that is background to the extremely interesting figures in the report. The reason for my intervention is to ascertain whether the Government believe that the changes that they are making will help to correct the present situation.
The figures for men as regards the pre-retirement disability and average income from occupational pension for people receiving occupational pensions show that those who have a pre-retirement disability receive, to the nearest pound, an average income from occupational pensions of £46 per week, but with no pre-retirement disability it is £67 per week. There is a difference of £21 per week between those without a pre-retirement disability and those with. As regards women, the figures are £26 with a pre-retirement disability and £31 without. That is a difference of £5. Will any of the changes that the Government are now making help to correct that situation or will the amendments affect only future benefits?
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