Skip to main content

Pensions Regulator Powers

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

My right hon. Friend Lord McKenzie of Luton has made the following statement:

On 25 April the Government published the consultation document “The Powers of the Pensions Regulator—Amendments to the Anti-avoidance Measures in the Pensions Act 2004”. The consultation was focused on proposals to amend the regulator’s powers to ensure that they remain adequate and appropriate to address new risks resulting from changes in the pensions market.

The Government’s main concern was the emergence of new business models, which have highlighted weaknesses in the current legislation and may reduce the security provided by the pension scheme’s sponsor employer. This may be detrimental to scheme members’ benefits, and have a cost consequence for the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), and those responsible for paying its levy.

The consultation closed on 20 June and I am pleased to announce that I am today placing copies of the Government’s response to this consultation, along with an impact assessment, in the Libraries of both Houses.

We have listened carefully to the concerns raised during the consultation and at the Lords Committee debate of the Pensions Bill; in particular that the substantive proposals should be on the face of the Bill, that they should not impact disproportionately on business, and that transactions previously cleared by the regulator should not be unpicked. The Government’s policy objective is to support those employers who choose to run defined benefit schemes and to minimise undue costs: it therefore made a commitment to refine its proposed legislation to address these serious considerations.

The Government response sets out our proposals to make proportionate changes to the regulator’s powers, without unduly inhibiting legitimate business activity. The Government have today tabled amendments to the Pensions Bill clauses tabled at Lords Committee to give effect to these changes in primary legislation.

The Government have undertaken further work with key stakeholders over the summer to improve the legislation and to ensure its application is appropriately circumscribed. The amendments are intended to strike the right balance between protecting scheme members under pensions legislation and ensuring that legitimate interests of employers and investors are not unduly inhibited. The Government are grateful for the wide range of input it has received.

The amendments we are tabling today provide greater certainty for the pensions industry, corporate organisations and other parties, with important controls and a requirement on the regulator to produce a statutory code of practice to target the use of the new material detriment test for contribution notices. The regulator has today published draft content for this code, which complements the legislation and provides a list of circumstances to further define the expected use of this new test.

The regulator is required to undertake a formal consultation on this code and anticipates that this will begin later in the year, subject to Parliament’s approval of the legislation.

The Government’s response will be available on the Department’s internet site later today (http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2008/), and the pensions regulator draft content for the code of practice will be available on the regulator’s internet page (http://www.tpr.gov.uk).