Kinks in Debate

Baroness Murphy

Baroness Greengross

Last night, we had just had our first vote on the Pensions Bill, narrowly won by the Government. (The main point of the Pensions Bill is to move both sexes to a state pension age of 66. This will happen over a 5-6 year period and was planned in principle by the former government. The Coalition is bringing forward the plan by two years after having examined the financial implications of the more relaxed timetable and considered the impact in taxation on the future working population.)  We were about to embark on the next amendment tabled by Baroness Greengross. This was an important ‘half way house compromise’ to assist those women who will have to work for one or two years longer for their pension and which could have a negative impact on poorer women out of work. I knew Lady Greengross had put an enormous amount of work into getting a sensible compromise that would not be too expensive…the savings over many years would be £2bn rather than the £10bn the Government was aiming for. And I also knew that the Opposition were going to support it if the first amendment was lost and some Lib Dems might also join in. It was important to have it tabled and debated. I had spoken briefly in support of the idea at Committee Stage.

The Deputy Speaker Lady Pitkeathley called out ‘Amendment 3, Baroness Greengross’ but we looked round in consternation to find Lady G was not in the Chamber. She’d been there only two minutes earlier so I guessed she must be nearby…the only thing to do was leap up and speak to move the amendment before it was lost. Which I duly did….. the main problem being I could not understand a word of her amendment, which was “Clause 1, page 2, leave out lines 3 to 6 and insert-“, followed by a long list of birthdates from 1953-54. Fortunately Lady Greengross hurried into the Chamber as I was speaking and was able to pick up the threads after I had moved the amendment. A brief debate ensued during which the Clerk (David Beamish, who is soon to become our new Clerk of the Parliaments) passed me a note to point out that whoever moves an amendment must also respond to the Minister. This means responding to the various points made in debate and deciding whether to move to a vote. Lord German, no slouch, had already plotted out the birthdays and found a kink in the graph. He wanted to know why there were kinks. I hadn’t the foggiest idea why there were kinks.   Lady Greengross passed me an almost but not quite legible note and I could tell the Chamber was in a mood for a vote….so I called one. The Minister Lord Freud had said his hands were tied by European directive no 79/7 which deals with the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security. It provides that there shall be no discrimination on grounds of sex in relation to the benefits. When the Pensions Act 1995 was passed, the UK legislated to end gender discrimination in the state pension age by April 2020. I thought it wasn’t beyond the wit of the Department of Work and Pensions to come up with a compromise to help these women even if it was not this one in the amendment, but no indication of that was forthcoming.

We lost the vote but it was narrow…Contents 203; Not-Contents 215. The debate is at

Lady Greengross and I have been friends for thirty years since she was a campaigner with Age Concern England (now part of AgeUK) and I was a trainee doctor working with older people. She is always very, very busy and is also moving house this week. I was glad to be able to help her out a little.

4 comments for “Kinks in Debate

  1. MilesJSD
    31/03/2011 at 12:15 pm

    A brief glance ‘below the belt’ (certainly not intended as an actual punch)

    So there are slouch-Lords (and presumably slouch-Ladies) in our Upper House ?

    and several ‘kinks’ in their printed-deliberations ?


  2. Lord Blagger
    31/03/2011 at 12:54 pm

    So there we have it.

    Someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about proposing changes to legislation.

    Sums up the lords quite well.

  3. Bedd Gelert
    31/03/2011 at 8:31 pm

    Off-topic, But Paul Waugh has highlighted that the Lords have the power to detain miscreants for an unlimited time…

    “The House has not fined anyone since 1666 and it hasn’t committed anyone to custody (although it has detained people temporarily) since the 19th Century. It is thus less than entirely clear that the House retains the power to do either,” the report states.

    I like that word ‘indefinitely’… Sadly, this would likely to be over-turned by that pesky ‘Uman Rights Act’ from Strasbourg or worse, the miscreants might find that they had been jailed in the wine cellar and come out feeling unpunished and without having suffered any retribution or curtailment of their recidivist tendencies…

    Still, some of those caught up in the expenses unpleasantness could at least be dealt with at no cost to the taxpayer / enrichment of privatised prisons [delete as appropriate].

    Indeed they could be enjoined to blog on this site as a form of penance and as a deterrent to others..

  4. MilesJSD
    01/04/2011 at 7:26 pm

    Appears evident that many if not all Peers need both “workplace-skills”” and “lifeplace-abilities” up-dating and re-disciplinings.

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