Private Sector Pension Abuse - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:58 pm on 22nd January 2018.

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Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 5:58 pm, 22nd January 2018

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the UQ asked in the other place. Yesterday, the Prime Minister chose to announce via the media that, in part in response to the collapse of Carillion, the Government plan to introduce tough new rules to stop private sector pension abuse—so we are to play catch-up again, it seems, following the pensions freedoms debacle. Carillion had 13 defined benefit schemes in the UK, with some 27,500 members and a combined pensions deficit of some £600 million.

We know that, according to its chief executive, Carillion had been on the radar of the PPF “for some time”, and it was on the watch-list by autumn 2017. Carillion gave its first profit warning in July of that year and its second on 29 September. The Pensions Regulator reported the close monitoring of risks and that it had had “heightened engagement” with the company since July’s profit warning. It apparently had some discussions with Carillion on a regulated apportionment arrangement but these came to nought.

Given the level of engagement and knowledge, which particular tightening of the regulatory framework are the Government considering? Precisely what additional powers for the regulator are contemplated, and what difference does the Minister think these would have made in the Carillion circumstances now faced?

More generally—I think that the Minister has confirmed this—in accordance with the Work and Pensions Select Committee recommendations, there will be a number of recommendations concerning mandatory clearance powers for corporate activities that put pension schemes at risk and new powers to fine those who act in an irresponsible manner. If the Government support those recommendations, how quickly does the Minister consider they will reach the statute book?