Orders of the Day — Parliamentary and Other Pensions Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:18 pm on 27th April 1987.

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Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire 8:18 pm, 27th April 1987

I beg to move. That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Since 1965, there have been six Acts of Parliament dealing with the parliamentary pensions scheme. On almost every occasion, the Minister responsible has had to apologise for the complexity of the legislation. This Bill is no exception, but I hope that it will allow some of the complexities of the present arrangements to be avoided in the future.

The Bill's main purpose is to enable the parliamentary pensions scheme to be contained in regulations rather than in primary legislation. That has two advantages: it makes the scheme simpler and more readily understandable. The current rules of the scheme will be able to be published in consolidated form, so that it will be easier to consult them, and any future changes to the rules will require not primary legislation but the simpler procedure appropriate to statutory instruments.

Before I describe the contents of the Bill in more detail, I should make a couple of general points. The first is the importance I attach to listening to Members' comments about the scheme and to discussing with Members any changes the Government propose. My commitment to this will, I hope, be clear not just from the Bill's provisions on consultation, but from the steps I have taken already to explain to Members what the Bill itself would do. I am grateful for the views of those Members I have been able to consult during the preparation of this Bill. I believe they generally appreciated the reasons for simplifying the scheme in the way we propose. I should particularly pay tribute to the chairman of the trustees of the pension fund, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), for his help and advice.

The second general point is to emphasise, especially to the House, that this Bill does not amend the provisions of the scheme in any way. I am aware that some aspects of the scheme are seen by some hon. Members as unsatisfactory, but we have a tradition of referring proposals for improvements in our pension arrangements to an independent body. The House will recall that substantial changes were made to the scheme in 1984 following recommendations by the Top Salaries Review Body. In view of this I do not expect the TSRB to offer recommendations on the pension scheme again in the near future.