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Pensions: Winding Up

Volume 688: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures have been put in place since they accepted the Parliamentary Ombudsman's recommendation to speed up the winding up of occupational pensions schemes; and which schemes have been in the wind-up process for (a) one year; (b) two years; (c) three years; and (d) four years or more. [HL740]

Since accepting the Parliamentary Ombudsman's recommendation to,

“conduct a review—with the pensions industry and other key stakeholders—to establish what can be done to improve the time taken to wind up final salary schemes”,

the Government have published a report (Speeding Up Winding Up of Occupational Pension Schemes) on 2 November, setting out their belief that it is reasonable to expect a scheme—in the normal course of events—to complete the key activities of winding up in two years. The report also contains proposals for a series of measures to help schemes achieve this target.

The proposals include increased targeting by the Pensions Regulator of those trustees or administrators who are seen as taking excessive time to wind up schemes; provision of appropriate guidance and regulatory support by the Pensions Regulator for trustees and administrators; speeding up the reconciliation of scheme records and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data; and requiring schemes to report to the Pensions Regulator after two years of wind-up (rather than three as at present).

Two HMRC-led measures in the report—streamlining internal processes and further publicising services1 which its national insurance services to pensions industry (NISPI) unit offers—have already been implemented. In addition, by the end of 2006, NISPI will expand its shared workspace pilot2 to cover eight, rather than just three, providers.

The Department for Work and Pensions continues to lead work across government, with colleagues at the Pensions Regulator, the Pension Protection Fund and HMRC to implement the remaining proposals in the report, and evaluate their effectiveness and the need for further action.

I shall write to the noble Lord shortly with such information as is available with regard to schemes which have been in the wind-up process.

1 Accrued GMP Liability Service (AGLS): a service where administrators can request up-to-date details of the GMP accrued for past and present members; and Contracted Out Contribution Information Service (COCIS): a service where administrators can request details of contracted-out contributions/earnings recorded for members.

2 Using a secure HMRC server as a means of exchanging data electronically with pension scheme administrators.