The Environment Agency

Schedule 1 – in the House of Commons at 10:45 pm on 28th June 1995.

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Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford 10:45 pm, 28th June 1995

I beg to move amendment No. 30, in page 149, line 6, at end insert— '(2A) The Agency may, in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 1995—

  1. (a) pay such pensions to or in respect of any persons who are or have been its officers or employees, and
  2. (b) make such payments towards provision for the payment of such pensions,
as it may, with the approval of the Secretary of State determine.'.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 31, in page 149, line 8, leave out 'pensions'.

No. 32, in page 149, line 12, leave out 'pensions'.

No. 33, in page 149, line 15, leave out 'pensions'.

No. 34, in page 149, line 16, at end insert— '(3A) For the purpose of exercising its functions under this paragraph as respects the management of any pension fund maintained by it, the Agency shall establish a Committee, not less than half the members of which shall be appointed after consultation with such organisations as appear to the Agency to be representative of the interests of its employees.'. No. 35, in page 149, line 17, leave out 'sub-paragraph' and insert 'sub-paragraphs (2A) and'.

No. 36, in page 149, line 17, after 'pensions', insert 'or'.

No. 37, in page 149, line 19, after 'pensions', insert `or, as the case may be,'. No. 38, in page 149, line 21, at end insert— '(5) The Agency shall secure that—

  1. (a) so far as possible the terms and conditions of employment which apply to its employees are consistent throughout its area in respect of employees whose duties are similar or demand similar levels of skill,
  2. (b) appropriate systems are established and maintained for the assessment of those duties and those levels, and
  3. (c) appropriate arrangements are established and maintained for the representation of its employees, as respects matters affecting their terms and conditions of employment, by such organisations as are representative of its employees or, in a case where only some of its employees are affected, those employees.'.
No. 39, in schedule 22, page 340, line 13, at end insert—'Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 1995219. At the end of Part I of Schedule B1 to the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 1995 (which lists the employers whose employees are eligible to be members of the Scheme) there shall be inserted the words "The Environment Agency".'.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford

The amendment is extremely important, because it is the only one that has come before the House tonight that concerns the potential employees of the agency. In Committee, we faced many difficulties in trying to bring the concerns of potential employees to the attention of Ministers. However, because of the lateness of the hour, I shall not make a speech in support of the amendments. I shall merely explain their purpose. Having said that, I hope that the Minister will not give the matter any less attention. I am deeply concerned, as are my hon. Friends, about the terms and conditions awaiting employees who join the new agency.

Around 9,000 people will be transferred from the existing local government waste regulation authorities, from Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution and the National Rivers Authority. Their futures are extremely important. The purpose of the amendments is to tackle one of the difficulties for people who transfer. Many of them are in senior positions, all are very skilled, and they are at varying stages of their careers, as well as being of varying ages.

The purpose of the amendments is, first, to make all employees of the agency eligible to be members of the local government pension scheme. Secondly, it is to restrict the agency to the provision of the local government pension scheme as opposed to any other scheme for future employees, while recognising and accepting that HMIP employees have special concerns as members of the chiefs of the civil service pension fund. Thirdly, the amendments would place an obligation on the agency to establish a joint pension committee by agreement with the relevant employee representative organisations.

The intention is to safeguard the pension rights of the potential employees of the agency. Of course, the transfer will be covered by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981. There are therefore perfect precedents for the way in which a joint pension committee should be set up by agreement.

Despite having outlined the case in very few words, I hope that I have stressed the considerable importance of the amendments and our concerns for employees.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the spirit in which she moved the amendment. Of course I listened carefully, as these are important matters.

I confirm that the agency will, through secondary legislation, be designated as an administering authority for the local government pension scheme. That will allow all eligible employees to join the scheme, but we do not need the Bill to so designate the agency. The usual procedure of an amendment to the relevant statutory instrument, which will be subject to consultation with relevant parties, will be sufficient.

Furthermore, the amendments would restrict the agency's freedom to offer alternative pension arrangements to individual staff who do not wish to join the LGPS. Nor would it be appropriate to require the agency to establish a committee as proposed in amendment No. 34. LGPS regulations already require administering authorities to act prudently in the management of their funds, and the statutory limits that apply to LGPS administering authorities ensure that requirement.

As for amendment No. 38, the agency will inherit a wide variety of terms and conditions of employment. It will undoubtedly wish to draw up systems of pay, grading, terms and conditions which are more consistent than those which it inherits, but the legislation should not prevent the agency from adopting variations to take account of factors such as the job market.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford

In case he was not going to cover this point, may I ask the Minister to refer to people who are placed on short-term, fixed-term or temporary contracts?

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

As the hon. Lady knows, these are highly technical matters, but no less important for that. If she would like me to spell out the details by way of correspondence, I should be more than happy to do so.

I can now do no better than suggest that the hon. Lady withdraw the amendment in due course.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford

In view of the Minister's remarks and his promise to write to me in some detail, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 60, in page 149, line 24, leave out 'Water Resources Act 1991' and insert '1991 Act'.

No. 61, in page 149, line 28, leave out 'Water Resources Act 1991' and insert '1991 Act'.—[Mr. Atkins.]