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Superannuation Bill

Part of Freedom of Information (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 7:47 pm on 7th September 2010.

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Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour, Kilmarnock and Loudoun 7:47 pm, 7th September 2010

We heard today that the people whom the Public and Commercial Services Union represents-the majority of people who work in the civil service-did not agree that the previous Government's approach was the right one at that stage. Whether or not the hon. Gentleman agrees with the union, it had the right to go to court and did so, and secured a ruling in its favour. We must recognise and accept that. I was surprised to hear other hon. Members suggest that the ruling by the court was something that we should simply dismiss, and I would hope that that is not in fact what they are saying.

Given the need for brevity, I will focus on one particular point and that is the device that is being used to push this Bill through. I am very concerned that the Bill has been laid as a money Bill. I am a new Member and I stand to be corrected if I am wrong or if I have misunderstood what a money Bill has traditionally been used to do, but my understanding is that the Parliament Act 1911 defines a money Bill and charges the Speaker with certifying whether a Bill is a money Bill. Previously, money Bills have been used to protect revenue and to raise tax, but never before has a money Bill been used in a situation like this. I agree with my hon. Friend John McDonnell who suggested that the use of a money Bill in these circumstances could be seen as an abuse of parliamentary procedure, and certainly many of the people who have spoken to me about this feel that is indeed the case. It is an abuse of that procedure to try to speed a Bill through Parliament without the proper scrutiny and, as the Minister has already accepted, to use a blunt instrument to try to force something on to the negotiating table.

If we look at the detail of the Bill, although it is very short we see that the degree to which it is unworkable in the long term is implicit in its provisions. The sunset clause, which means that the Bill will expire after 12 months, can be repealed at any time and can only be extended for a further period of six months by secondary legislation, and that is a real cause for concern. On the one hand, the Minister said that we have to negotiate but we cannot negotiate in public. However, at the same time, he is very publicly using this blunt instrument to try to force the unions into a particular position without providing any of the detail that Members on both sides of the House have sought today-

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