Orders of the Day — Parliamentary and Other Pensions Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:22 pm on 27th April 1987.

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Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Minister of State (HM Treasury) 9:22 pm, 27th April 1987

It is a pleasure to reply to this useful debate. After my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House moved the Second Reading, the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) asked a series of questions and made a series of observations about the Bill, to which I will do my best to reply.

My great-uncle was the hon. Member in the Liberal interest for Tower Hamlets, Bow and Bromley. I believe that this is the first time that I have followed the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney in a debate of this kind, although I have followed his colleague in Tower Hamlets, the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo). It is a delight to pay an incidental tribute to my great-uncle as well as to the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney spelt out concisely and neatly the antithesis before us, in terms of the complexity of the legislation and the disadvantages of the simplicity inherent in regulations. He was joined in those observations later by his hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam). I listened very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman's comments about the procedure upon which we would embark under the Bill and in particular to his questions about the way in which we might handle these matters, assuming that the Bill is enacted. I want to put a proposition before the House which I hope will act as a vehicle for our debates in Committee.

The Bill also provides for consultation before regulations are introduced, but we shall consider carefully whether we can devise arrangements more like those for determining the pay of Members of Parliament, in which Members have an opportunity to debate an amendable motion before final proposals are introduced. That was the gist of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and I am delighted to respond in this way. He and the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) mentioned Lady Maybray-King and drew attention to the fact that some of the criticisms that have been made outside the House about that provision were ill-founded. I am grateful to both right hon. Gentlemen for sustaining the proposition in the Bill.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney mentioned the Top Salaries Review Body and changes that might be made to the provisions of the scheme and the arrangements for Members, but, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, the Government do not believe that it is an appropriate time to amend the scheme. We have heard suggestions for improving it, all of which can be referred to the TSRB when it next considers Members' pensions. I should say that substantial improvements tend to carry substantial costs.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney mentioned anomalies relating especially to Members retiring at or about the age of 60. He mentioned the pension for a Member who retires, with 20 years' service, between the ages of 57 and 59 and suggested that that should be paid as though he had reached the age of 60. In 1984, substantial improvements were made in the pensions for that group. Their pensions were abated by a smaller percentage than the full actuarial reduction. Hon. Members also addressed the issue of lowering the general retirement age to 60. It was considered by the TSRB, most recently in its report on pensions in 1983, but it did not recommend a general reduction.