Prison Officer Pension Age

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Bellamy
Monday 18th March 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend that it was a great pity that the arrangements negotiated in 2016 were rejected by the Prison Officers’ Association in 2017. Since then, Ministers have done their best to reopen the matter. As my noble friend Lord Attlee said in opening, it is a matter ultimately for the Treasury. The Treasury is currently besieged by many calls on its resources, including in the pensions sphere, with very large sums of public money being taken up by the McCloud Remedy, which I can explain to noble Lords in more detail—if your Lordships would remain awake. The overall position is that, of course, this matter should continue to be pursued.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, in this House, 68 may seem only early to mid-career, but the general public will be worried at the thought of prison officers of that age carrying on in a very difficult and dangerous job. As part of a broader programme of prison reform, should the Government and the service not be thinking of allowing an earlier retirement age and using the experience gained in other parts of the prison and probation service in the proper through-treatment of prisoners?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, I take the point the noble Lord is making. When I had the honour to join this House, I was told that life begins at 70, which has a certain amount of truth in it these days. What the noble Lord suggests is very close to what is currently happening. A typical position is for an older officer to step back from front-line duties, be re-employed by the Prison Service and continue to earn a pensionable salary, as well as having his earlier pension. I am not completely convinced that that is not a perfectly sensible solution to the problem.

Criminal Jurors

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Bellamy
Wednesday 6th March 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, I would like first, if I may, to thank my noble friend for raising this issue and for organising a recent stakeholder conference. The Government are aware of the question that she rightly raises, but are not, at present, planning for a call for evidence as such. We already have regular jury satisfaction surveys, which generally express high levels of jury satisfaction and a willingness to serve again. We do know that a minority of jurors suffer stress, and we are exploring options that we intend to test in the Crown Courts later this year and to issue further guidance to courts on the circumstances in which ad hoc support can be arranged.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, I wish the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, well with this campaign. Does the Minister, from his own vast experience, think that judges could take more responsibility, particularly in cases that have obviously affected the mental health of jurors, and also where judges can push against the law’s delay, which Shakespeare talked about 400 years ago and is still very much a factor in our legal system?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, speaking from the experience of a sometime, extreme lowly, recorder of the Crown Court, the first thing that one is taught as a criminal judge is to ensure the well-being of the jury. I am sure that all judges go out of their way to ensure that the jury is properly looked after—as do the court ushers and the jury bailiffs—and they are, generally speaking, warmly thanked for their participation. There will be occasions when further support is needed, and the Government are, as I said, planning trials and tests, later this year, to explore the options.

Judicial Pensions (Remediable Service etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Bellamy
Wednesday 10th January 2024

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Bellamy Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bellamy) (Con)
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My Lords, your Lordships last considered matters relating to judicial pensions following the McCloud judgment on 15 June, when the Judicial Pensions (Remediable Service etc.) Regulations 2023 were before them. On that occasion, in answer to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, I said that I hoped your Lordships would not be troubled by this matter again. Unfortunately, a small technical point has arisen on those 2023 regulations that we were then considering; these amendment regulations address that point. Perhaps I could briefly explain.

As your Lordships may recall, in 2015 the Government introduced new pension arrangements across the public sector following a report from the Public Services Pensions Commission. As far as judges were concerned, the new arrangements were set up in the Judicial Pensions Regulations 2015, which I will refer to as the 2015 scheme. Those aged over 55—that is, those approaching retirement —were allowed to remain in their previous legacy schemes and were not required to join the 2015 scheme, as every other judge was required to do.

Those judicial arrangements were then challenged by younger judges who said that they were victims of age discrimination in being required to join the 2015 scheme without the option to remain in their previous legacy schemes, which were supposedly more favourable. The challenge succeeded in the McCloud case in 2018 so, after various consultations and actions, Parliament passed the Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Act in 2022; in effect, it remedied the McCloud judgment by giving everyone the option to choose between their previous legacy scheme and the 2015 scheme. I understand that around 3,000 judges were affected by the McCloud judgment and that the process of allowing them the option to choose is currently in train and is so far proceeding according to plan. However, a group that apparently numbers between 30 and 50 judges has a particular situation: largely prior to the McCloud judgment, they made payments into the 2015 scheme. Typically, it was top-up payments, pension transfer payments or other supplementary payments.

However, as it turns out, through the effect of the McCloud judgment and what is thought to be the effect of Section 61 of the Equality Act, they were never technically in the 2015 scheme. In law, they always remained in their legacy schemes, so what is the status of the payments that were made into the 2015 scheme to which these judges did not, in law, belong? It is simply to correct that issue that these regulations are being put before your Lordships.

Effectively, the regulations simply say—one sees it in particular on page 2 of the regulations in the new Regulation 38A, which is introduced into the 2023 regulations—that the value payments made into the scheme are referred to as purported value payments and are to be treated as having been received by the scheme. Although there was doubt about whether they could be received by the scheme, this now deems them to be treated as having been received by the scheme. There are similar parallel provisions in relation to the various kinds of transfer payments that we are referring to.

That is, as I understand it, the essential purpose of these regulations: simply to tidy up a point. I have to say that it is not a particularly clear point, but the Government feel they should make assurance doubly sure by putting that matter beyond argument.

Finally, another group of judges numbering no more than three, I gather, benefit from an earlier judgment—the O’Brien judgment—which said that fee-paid judges were actually entitled to a pension. Those judges similarly made some payments into the 2015 scheme and the question is about the exact status of those payments. These regulations again provide that those payments are deemed to be in the 2015 scheme. I know there is a famous phrase that we have too much damned deeming going on in the legal system, but this is simply there to clarify the position.

Unless I have omitted some fundamental point or made any misstatement, that is the essential purpose of the regulations and I beg to move.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy. I held his position in the Government between 2010 and 2013. I became Minister of State at Justice with the now noble Lord, Lord Clarke—Ken Clarke—as Lord Chancellor. One of our first visits was to go across Parliament Square to pay a courtesy call on the Supreme Court. He was, of course, in his element as a QC and a former Home Secretary, but I was filled with trepidation when soon after we arrived three Supreme Court judges bore down on me, clearly to seek some discussion on some high point of law—some difficult and abstruse point. I need not have worried: what they wanted to press me on was judicial pensions. There was some passion in that. I remember one of the first stages in the coalition Government, which probably ended up in the 2015 Act, was to try to address the various anomalies and uncertainties in judicial pensions, so it is with a sense of closure that I come this afternoon to support what the noble and learned Lord memorably described at an earlier stage as

“44 pages of the densest technical complexity one could imagine”.—[Official Report, 15/6/23; col. GC 375.]

Why am I not surprised that that should be the legislation dealing with judges’ pensions?

I am sure that we share with the Minister the hope that this is the final tweak to the regulations. In voicing our support from these Benches, I ask him how the regulations fit in with the more general objectives of judicial reform. Will we see a judiciary—particularly a senior judiciary—more diverse in social, gender, ethnic and educational background than hitherto has been the case? Does the Minister agree that it is important that our legal system should as much as possible reflect the society it serves? There is much to admire in the intellectual quality, integrity and independence of our judiciary. Its members are most certainly not “enemies of the people”, but they must not be seen as a Brahmin caste, separate from society as a whole.

The direction of travel in recent years has been slow but steady. I hope that a sensible and secure pension scheme will underpin the flexibility and social mobility necessary to retain confidence in and respect for our judiciary.

Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal (Composition of Tribunal) Regulations 2023

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Bellamy
Wednesday 10th January 2024

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Bellamy Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bellamy) (Con)
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My Lords, this draft instrument will delegate the power to determine the composition of employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal to the Senior President of Tribunals. The regulations form part of a wider ongoing policy on the part of the Government to create a single judiciary in which all parts of the judicial system form a seamless whole, whether courts or tribunals, and to further the work of ensuring consistency of operation within the tribunal system.

Your Lordships may recall that, in the very old days —I am not completely sure but this may even predate the noble Lord, Lord McNally—tribunals were, in effect, almost a part of the department to which they were associated. Down the end of the corridor in the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Social Security, there would be a tribunal that was supposed to review the decisions of the department. Over the years, however, it has been the Government’s policy, pursued particularly by the Labour Government and later by the coalition, to create a proper, independent, separately administered tribunal system.

From mid-2007 onwards, we have had a formalised, unified tribunal structure, in which all the various tribunals form the first tier. We have First-tier Tribunals, which consist of a series of tribunals dealing with social security, educational special needs, immigration and asylum, and various other things, with an appeal to the Upper Tribunal. The whole is presided over by a Senior President of Tribunals, who is currently the right honourable Sir Keith Lindblom. The Senior President of Tribunals decides on the composition of those various tribunals, across the board.

For historical reasons, employment tribunals have been an exception to this system. As your Lordships will recall, employment tribunals have a rather special history: they were originally called industrial tribunals and were set up at a time when, to gain public confidence, it was thought—rightly so—that those tribunals should have a particular statutory set-up shared jointly by what are now the Department for Business and Trade and the Ministry of Justice. The composition of employment tribunals was set out separately under the Employment Tribunals Act 1996. As your Lordships know, the original idea, dating from the 1970s, was that there would always be someone representing the workers, someone representing the bosses and a legal chairman of that composition.

Times have moved on a lot since. The Judicial Review and Courts Act 2022 set out a new framework, which provides that the Lord Chancellor has the power to determine the panel composition of employment tribunals, which he can delegate to the Senior President of Tribunals. These regulations implement that provision and allow the Lord Chancellor to delegate to the Senior President of Tribunals powers to determine the panel composition of employment tribunals, thus bringing them more fully within the unified system of tribunals and making the panel composition the same as all other tribunals.

The Senior President would be able to issue practice directions of the types of cases that can, for example, be heard by a judge alone, but he has to consult the Lord Chancellor about any practice direction that he is minded to make. The idea is to update the system, to create a more flexible process and to bring arrangements for employment tribunals and employment appeal tribunals in line with those that apply across the unified tribunal system.

Your Lordships will know that, particularly following the Covid pandemic, the tribunal system has been under great pressure. There is a need to be as flexible as possible to tackle these backlogs and to implement processes that are as efficient as possible. I take this opportunity to say that tribunals, particularly employment tribunals, have recovered well from the pandemic; the outstanding case load is falling and is below the pandemic peak. Members of employment tribunals and the judges in this sphere have done great work to tackle the backlog.

There is a matter that relates to what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked about on the previous statutory instrument: the status of non-lawyers who work in the judicial system. I will not call them lay members, as that phrase is not particularly appealing to them. It is not the Government’s intention that this should be a kind of backdoor to reduce the role of non-lawyers in our legal system. The Government’s view is that, from time immemorial, non-lawyers—citizens—have played an essential part in our legal system as a whole. That might have been as magistrates—the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, is a notable example—in a jury, or as members of tribunals.

We feel that this “lay participation” brings an extra texture, adds extra confidence, brings extra insights and greatly enhances the system as a whole—particularly from the point of view of diversity, which was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McNally. You are drawing on a wide pool of potential appointments to tribunals and, generally speaking, that is an avenue in which you can enhance diversity in the wider judicial system. The regulations are not intended to undermine that in any way. I have had the great privilege of sitting as a judge in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, where the effect of the lay members was particularly striking. I will follow the noble Lord, Lord McNally, with a moment of personal reminiscence. In those days, the Employment Appeal Tribunal had some very distinguished trade union members: I think of George Wright of the Transport and General Workers’ Union; Norman Willis, the former secretary-general of the TUC; and others— I think I just missed Jack Jones, but only by a short margin. They brought enormous skill, wisdom and common sense to the operation of the appeal tribunal, and one would not wish to jeopardise that.

I thought that I would take the opportunity to make the Government’s position on that point clear. This statutory instrument is designed to bring employment tribunals in line with the rest of the system and to enable us to be as flexible as possible without in any way undermining the principle of lay participation, which I have just emphasised. On that basis, I beg to move.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, it is perhaps one of the wonders of our system that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, and I should both have had the same job in government. I am not a lawyer, whereas he is a very distinguished lawyer and indeed a very distinguished judge. I used to be—if you are going to invite people of my age to speak at these gatherings, you are going to get some reminiscences—very nervous of that. At any meeting, I would say, “I have to explain that I am not a lawyer”. Then I entertained a distinguished jurist from the United States and explained that I was not a lawyer, and he said—very slowly—“Then I will speak very slowly”, so I stopped doing that.

I should also say that, in background and upbringing, I belong to a generation that was—and is—supportive of dialogue rather than confrontation in industrial relations. The Employment Tribunals Act and the setting up of the tribunals certainly underpinned and strengthened that approach to industrial relations. Of course, we will probably give a nod to it today.

European Convention on Human Rights

Debate between Lord McNally and Lord Bellamy
Thursday 23rd June 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, the convention recognises a margin of appreciation and the principle of subsidiarity as to how each of the member states implements their duties under the convention. There is no hierarchy as such, but there are going to be variations in the way those rights are secured. In particular, this Bill redefines and promotes the right to freedom of speech, which lies at the heart of our democracy.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the European Convention on Human Rights will for ever be linked to David Maxwell Fyfe who, supported by Winston Churchill, was one of its principal authors. It is implicit in the Question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that, over the years since its passage, we have been both a leader by example and an influencer in Europe. Is the Minister really satisfied—I am sorry to say this in welcoming him—to continue to be a member of a Government who are quite clearly using civil liberties, human rights and the convention itself as what is described as a wedge issue to inflame and enthuse the right wing of the Tory party, instead of giving the moral leadership that all parties have taken pride in since its inception?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, respectfully, I do not accept the characterisation put forward by the noble Lord. The approach in this Bill is balanced, as I have just explained, and is described in this morning’s Times as a “constructive and sound” approach—a phrase that I would readily adopt. I fully accept that the great tradition of this country by great lawyers such as David Maxwell Fyfe should, and does, continue. The UK is one of the most active members of the Council of Europe. We have not only promoted the Brighton declaration I referred to a moment ago, which finally came into force last October, but we have recently been party to a further recommendation on better dissemination of human rights information across the Council of Europe and to a declaration to revitalise Articles 5 and 6 on liberty and the right to a fair trial. We have taken a lead in dealing with the situation regarding Russia and on generally improving the mechanics of the court. That leading role will continue.