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The Bill

The Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices [HL] Bill has been through its House of Lords stages and had its second reading in the House of Commons on 5 January 2022.

The Bill was considered by a Public Bill Committee over two sittings on 27 January 2022.

Report stage of the Bill will take place on 22 February 2022.

The aims of the Bill include “[consolidating and strengthening] a common UK legal framework for pensions across all the main public services” and “[addressing] resourcing challenges facing the judiciary.” It has four parts:

  • Part One would remove unlawful discrimination that arose when existing (‘legacy’) public service pension schemes were closed to certain members in 2014 to 2016 and provide for all scheme members to build up benefits in the new schemes from April 2022.
  • Part Two would enable the Treasury to establish new public service pension schemes for the members for two existing pension schemes which provide benefits to former staff members of Bradford and Bingley and Northern Rock, two companies taken into public ownership as a result of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
  • Part Three would increase the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75 and make changes to their allowances.
  • Part Four would provide for regulation-making powers, for the Bill to extend to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and for the dates from which parts of the Bill come into force.

This paper aims to act as a guide to debates in the House of Commons. Information about the Bill’s different stages and the amendments that have been tabled are on the web pages for the Bill on the Parliament website. Full policy background to the Bill as it  was introduced and debate in the Lords is set out in the Commons Library briefing paper Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill.

Debates in the Lords

The Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 19 July 2021. It had its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 7 September 2021. It went through its Committee Stage in one day, on 11 October, Report Stage was on 29 November and Third Reading on 6 December.

No opposition amendments to the clauses in Part One of the Bill were pushed to a vote in the Lords. However, the Government made a “large number of amendments” at Report Stage on 29 November 2021, to deal with issues that had arisen from discussions with stakeholders since the Bill had been introduced to Parliament.

In debate on Part Three, there was some Opposition and Crossbench resistance to raising the mandatory retirement age (MRA) for judges up to 75. Amendments were debated at both Committee and Report Stage in the Lords to constrain the MRA to 72, along the lines called for by senior judiciary. One such Report Stage amendment was defeated on a division.

Commons second reading debate

The Bill was introduced into the House of Commons (Bill 211, 2021-22) on 7 December. It was given its Second Reading without a vote on 5 January 2022.

Opposition parties said they would not oppose the Bill because they understood that the Government had a duty to respond to the McCloud judgement. However, concerns were raised about details, including: the operation of the cost control mechanism; the information that would be provided to support scheme members in making decisions; the extent of detail left to regulations; and the impact of the closure of legacy schemes on some members of the schemes for police and firefighters.

Regarding the changes affecting the judiciary, the main issues debated were the need to address recruitment difficulties and the potential impact of the increase in the retirement age on diversity.

Commons Public Bill Committee

The Public Bill Committee  sat on 27 January 2022. The Government brought forward 48 amendments and 13 new clauses. An opposition Labour new clause relating to the pension trap was pressed to a vote but did not succeed. All Government amendments were agreed by the Committee, the majority without debate. The Government succeeded in introducing a new clause on the operation of the cost control mechanism after a vote along party lines.

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