Orders of the Day — Parliamentary and Other Pensions Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:06 pm on 27th April 1987.

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Photo of Mr Richard Wainwright Mr Richard Wainwright , Colne Valley 9:06 pm, 27th April 1987

It is agreed in all parts of the House that an adequate contributory pension scheme in up-to-date form is a most necessary buttress to the independence and reputation of the House and of each hon. Member. It is largely because the Bill offers a way for amendments to be made to the scheme to keep it up to date with less delay than in the past and with much less excuse about lack of parliamentary time that I, who have the honour to be one of the managing trustees, support the Bill.

Pensions are a very dynamic topic. Already in this short debate a formidable list of invaluable changes has been carefully compiled by the Leader of the House, who has always seemed to me to be very understanding of such problems.

In supporting this new method of keeping the scheme up to date and in line with general developments in pension schemes, I would like to support those hon. Members who have already pointed out the extraordinary situation of Exchequer contributions. The trustees, under the diligent leadership of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), try their best to improve the state of the fund and if the long-term consequences were not likely to be so unfortunate, it would be comical if, with with the assistance of a buoyant stock market, their labours were reasonably successful, and the sole result was that the Exchequer's contribution was automatically reduced.

This also destroys the opportunity that trustees ought to have of being able to say to the Leader of the House, if there is an imminent surplus because of the success of the fund, that they have been reasonably good stewards, that they have been lucky in their results, that they have more backing to enable the fund to be improved, and that Members should have better benefits in return for their substantial 9 per cent. contributions. But not a bit of it. We are not in that position at all, because there cannot be a surplus. Any improvements in the scheme are bound to decrease, in however small a degree, the Exchequer contribution.

The trustees are set an impossible task and are given no incentive, apart from a sense of duty to the Exchequer, to keep the fund buoyant. I am sure that the absurdity of the long-term position must be apparent to the Leader of the House and the Treasury Ministers and that we shall have some encouragement to hope that the position will be made a little more equitable on that score.

I should like to add my voice to those who have already said that if we are to proceed by regulation, for which there is much to be said, all hon. Members must be given an opportunity for a debate on an amendable motion. I am sure that my fellow trustees, and particularly our chairman, will not object to my pointing out that, although trustees try, as a result of their experience month by month in managing the fund and the scheme, to point out anomalies and remind the House, particularly the Leader of the House, of injustices inherent in the present scheme, the job of the trustees legally is to administer the scheme as the House has already enacted it. Anything we do over and above that is simply a bonus from such experience as may have been accumulated. Therefore, the House should not rely—I am sure it would not—upon a small body of trustees to maintain and uphold the interests of different hon. Members, almost all of whom have somewhat different circumstances.

I hope that as the Bill proceeds on its way—I wish it a speedy passage—the Leader of the House will come forward with firm and clear undertakings that the Government fully recognise an obligation to enable the House to have a full debate on an amendable motion before any regulations under the Bill are introduced.