Clause 72

Pensions Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 7th February 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

House of Lords staff

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I beg to move amendment No. 183, in clause 72, page 34, line 41, at end add

‘or a Member of the House of Lords.’.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment

No. 184, in clause 73, page 35, line 7, at end insert—

‘(c) who is employed by a Member of Parliament.’.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Amendment No. 184 also relates to clause 73, so I hope you will not rule me out of order, Sir Nicholas, if I touch on the provisions of that clause. For the record, the explanatory note should say “probe” rather than “prove”. I entirely blame my handwriting for that mistake. The fault is all mine, not the excellent staff who assist Opposition Members in tabling amendments.

I refer to both clauses; I understand the distinction between people who work for the House authorities—some are in this room—and staff who are employed by Members of Parliament, but I want to know the position of Members’ staff. We are all small employers in our own right as Members of Parliament. There are some good aspects to that, in that we are not isolated from some of the matters that hundreds of thousands of small employers have to deal with up and down the country.

I am not arguing that we should be isolated from that or financially insulated from the provisions of this Bill. I am interested to know what the effect would be on staff employed by Members of the House of Lords and Members of the House of Commons. My amendment by implication does come to finance as well. If we are going to have take it on the chin, it will have financial implications for salary levels. I am not sure whether the Treasury would be minded to increase the grant to the House of Commons Commission so that the employer contribution could be paid.

I am not expecting the Minister to have a full answer at his fingertips but it would be useful if he could say something.

Photo of Danny Alexander Danny Alexander Liberal Democrat, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

I appreciate that these are probing amendments but they are probing at a point that all Members of the Committee and those who work for us would regard as interesting and significant so I am grateful to the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire for introducing the argument.

As Members know, staff of MPs as opposed to staff of the House have the opportunity to take part in the Portcullis pension plan. I assume, though I would be grateful for the Minister’s clarification, that the auto-enrolment provisions in the Bill would apply equally to that scheme, or relevant improvements would be made to ensure that it qualified. It is important to ensure that the benefits of automatic enrolment do apply to the two  groups of people highlighted by these amendments. I look forward to the Minister’s agreement with that point.

Photo of James Plaskitt James Plaskitt Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

The House of Lords and the House of Commons employ permanent fixed-term casual and freelance workers who are all employed under a worker’s contract. Clause 72 confirms that those people who work under a contract for the corporate officer of the House of Lords are workers for the purposes of these reforms. Similarly, clause 73 confirms that those people who are appointed by the House of Commons Commission or members of the Speaker’s personal staff are workers for the purposes of these reforms.

The corporate office of the House of Lords and the House of Commons Commission respectively are bound by the employer duty automatically to enrol these job-holders into a qualifying workplace pension scheme. We must not confuse these workers with those who are directly employed by peers of Members of Parliament.

The key point is that the provisions of this Bill already cover those people already employed by peers and Members of Parliament. Anyone directly employed by a peer or Member of Parliament that has job-holder status—that is, a worker between the age of 16 and 75 with qualifying earnings—would be entitled to participate in workplace pension saving with the minimum contribution from their employer.

A peer or Member of Parliament with such a job-holder would need to engage with a suitable scheme into which to enrol job-holders. A peer or Member of Parliament who employs a job-holder between the narrower band of age 22 to state pension age would have automatically to enrol that job-holder.

I hope that provides clarification and that the hon. Member will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Yes, I am grateful for that clarification from the Minister. It was a probing amendment as I stated at the beginning. I beg leave to ask to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 72 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

It being twenty-five minutes past ten o’clock The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at One o’clock.