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Superannuation Bill

Part of Freedom of Information (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 7th September 2010.

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Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell Shadow Secretary of State (Cabinet Office) and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Shadow Minister (Olympics and London) 5:50 pm, 7th September 2010

No, I am going to make some progress so that Back-Bench Members can get in.

We expect the Government to take seriously the need for proper dialogue and negotiation in circumstances where the individual impact of the changes is so substantial. It is fair to reflect disappointment among the trade unions that the Bill makes no attempt to put in place a long-term solution to the big challenge of the reform of civil service compensation and, as such, no solution is possible given the Government's failure to engage constructively with their employees and their representatives. That is implicit in the Bill's final provisions, which are designed to ensure that it is sunsetted, or expires within 12 months, can be repealed at any time and can only be extended for a further six months through recourse to secondary legislation.

The Bill to which the House is being asked to give a Second Reading tonight does not even represent the Government's settled position. The Minister tells us that his ambition is now a negotiated, sustainable and practical long-term solution, but that ambition merely serves to remind us that the Bill fails to provide such a sustainable solution or one that has been subject to proper dialogue with those affected.

There are questions that the coalition Government and the right hon. Gentleman must answer. The Opposition have made absolutely clear the anticipated level of savings-figures in which there can be confidence-that would have been produced by the February reform package, so I ask the right hon. Gentleman what savings the Government expect to make from the proposals in the Bill. Why do we not have a complete and workable scheme in front of the House as part of the Bill for which a Second Reading is sought? Why are we spending parliamentary time on legislation that simply seeks to provide the right hon. Gentleman with a negotiating tool to use with the civil service unions?

There is, of course, an alternative. It is fair and it is workable. As shown in our reasoned amendment, the February 2010 scheme should form the basis for the reform that we all agree is needed. As the right hon. Gentleman has made clear, it emerged from an eight-month consultation between the Government and civil service staff and would provide a fair resolution to the issue. Now, although five trade unions have agreed and continue to support the proposal, all six have expressed their support for the use of the principles underpinning the scheme as a basis for moving forward. That is an invitation and an offer to the right hon. Gentleman. Such an approach would meet the tests that we have set out for reform and save at least £500 million over the next three years.

Our challenge to the Minister is to put back on the table the February 2010 proposals, which are fair to the lowest-paid, will contribute £500 million to reducing the deficit and will reform the existing scheme. The right hon. Gentleman has already conceded in exchanges with my right hon. Friend Paul Goggins that, had all the unions agreed to this, there would have been-as he put it-a pressing case for acceptance. We therefore ask that he accepts the case now and supports the reasoned amendment. I call on the House to reject the Bill.

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