Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
My Lords, it has been a great pleasure to lead the Bill through this House. Before the Bill moves for consideration in the other place, I want to take a brief moment to reflect on the Bill and its passage through this House.
This is important legislation that consolidates and strengthens the legal framework for pensions across all the main public services: that is, the NHS, the judiciary, the police, firefighters, the Armed Forces, teachers, local government and the Civil Service. This Bill ensures that those who deliver our valued public services continue to receive guaranteed benefits in retirement that are among the best available on a fair and equal basis. It is also vital in addressing the resourcing challenges facing the judiciary, recognising the unique constitutional role of judges.
It has been clear from the informed and considered contributions made throughout the Bill’s passage that we are agreed on the principles of fairness and equal treatment for public servants. I convey my gratitude to all noble Lords for their contributions to our well-informed debates, which have helped to ensure that we achieve this aim. The Government listened carefully to your Lordships’ arguments and concerns as the Bill progressed and made a significant number of technical amendments on Report—123 in total—which I think noble Lords will agree have strengthened the Bill.
In particular, we listened to the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, during Grand Committee, regarding the importance of ensuring pension scheme members were provided with remedial voluntary contribution arrangements. I thank the noble Lord in supporting the Government to identify and address this important issue.
I would like to extend my thanks to all those who have engaged on the Floor of the House and in the meetings that we have had outside. In particular, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Davies of Brixton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, for their close engagement on the complex area that is public service pensions. I hope that the note sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, earlier today provides some reassurance on her important points raised on Report regarding eligibility criteria for voluntary contributions.
In addition, I thank a number of your Lordships who made impassioned contributions to our consideration of the judicial mandatory retirement age, including the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the noble and learned Lords, Lord Etherton, Lord Woolf, Lord Thomas, Lord Hope and Lord Brown, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay.
I also thank the Bill team, ably lead by Fraser Johnston, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, officials across Her Majesty’s Treasury, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, all government departments with responsibilities for public service pension schemes, and the devolved Administrations for their extensive support throughout passage of the Bill.
Finally, I thank my noble friend Lady Scott for her help as the Bill went through the House. There is a lot of technical detail in the Bill, with complex legal consequences, and the team’s guidance and expertise has been exemplary. I am sure that noble Lords will join me in expressing thanks for the support that the whole team has provided, including the updates, letters and briefings that noble Lords have received. On that note, I beg to move.