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Pension Protection Fund: Former Carillion Employees

Volume 638: debated on Monday 26 March 2018

1. What steps she is taking to ensure support for former Carillion employees whose pensions will not be covered by the Pension Protection Fund. (904547)

There are 12 Carillion defined benefit schemes in a PPF assessment period. The PPF is working with scheme administrators to determine whether they can pay pensions at or above PPF benefits. Where a scheme cannot do this, the PPF will assume responsibility and pay compensation.

The workers in the Carillion defined contribution scheme should not have to suffer any detriment to their pension. Will the Government be looking to draw back bonuses paid to the Carillion executives to put back into the pension funds?

As I said, the Carillion schemes are at present in the assessment period for the funds, and we are looking at what happened in those instances. The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that we have brought forward our White Paper on defined benefits and increasing the regulator’s powers to support these schemes in the best way possible, to make sure pensioners get those pensions that they so rightly deserve. It is the Conservative party that will be strengthening that for workers, to make sure we look after such pensioners.

Will the Secretary of State pay particular attention to that group of public sector workers who transferred into Carillion and are now retired, and who were covered not so much by the PPF, because they were given ex gratia payments rather than pensions, at the time they transferred?

My hon. Friend raises an important question, and he is right: a number of Carillion employees were compulsorily transferred from the public sector, and we are looking at whether they can now rejoin the public sector service scheme. We are working hard to determine that.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the Carillion pension crisis, as well as the many pensions crises over the years, support the Scottish National party calls for the UK Government to urgently set up an independent savings and pension commission to take a robust look at the pensions landscape?

The regulator is independent, and that is what it does: look at pension schemes. We have, through the White Paper, strengthened the regulator’s powers and now for the first time brought forward criminal sanctions should any director or employer bring into harm wilfully and neglectfully the workers’ pension scheme.

The catastrophic collapse of Carillion saw thousands of workers pay the price, including with their pensions. It was a monumental failure of governance and by Government, who knew Carillion was sinking into difficulties and went on awarding contracts despite profit warnings. The Secretary of State has said before the Select Committee that the Pensions Regulator knew about the mounting problems in 2014; were the Government alerted and did they choose to ignore those warnings, or did the regulator chose to ignore them and fail to alert the Government?

The regulator and assessors are now looking into a whole series of issues. Fundamentally, one of them has to be how Carillion’s books went from being a healthy balance-sheet to, a year later, not being a healthy balance-sheet. The auditors and accountants who had signed those books are now being thoroughly examined to establish what happened there before the regulator would have had to look into things, so a lot of investigations are going on.