Banking Bill — Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 20th January 2009.

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Photo of Viscount Eccles Viscount Eccles Conservative 4:00 pm, 20th January 2009

This is a short probing amendment. I will be brief because I think that the subsequent debates on this clause will be much more interesting than mine. The amendment would take out Clause 71(4), which states:

"Provision by virtue of this section may (but need not) amend the terms of a pension scheme".

I think that we would all agree that amending the terms of a pension scheme is a very sensitive matter. The position would of course be easier if a failing bank was taken speedily into public ownership in whole and not in part—then, if and when sales were subsequently made to private sector purchasers, there would be time to sort out the pension issues which are often complex when a group of companies is split. However—with assets going one way and shares another, with residual assets and liabilities, and with a staff divided when the FSA pulls the trigger for the tripartite authorities—no time is provided. The pension die is, in effect, cast. In contrast, when groups, typically, make part-sales of subsidiaries, there are established principles, present law and well tried appeal procedures to deal with the pension issues that arise. I beg to move.