Private Sector Pension Abuse - Statement

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 5:58 pm, 22nd January 2018

I am grateful to the noble Lord for mentioning that the Prime Minister clearly takes this situation extremely seriously. He reiterated that we intend to strengthen the regulator’s powers. Importantly, we have done that with care, introducing a Green Paper last year, and we have committed to the publication of a White Paper in the spring. Although the Pensions Regulator and the Pension Protection Fund manage the process of company insolvencies, and while most pension schemes are managed successfully and very robustly, we accept that there are instances where it might be possible to improve and strengthen the powers. We have received more than 800 responses to the Green Paper. The department is analysing these and will bring forward proposals as quickly as possible.

It is important to emphasise—I sense that the noble Lord opposite appreciates this—that it is hypothetical to suggest that a different set of powers for the Pensions Regulator, such as the ability to clear corporate activities, would have necessarily made a material difference to the pension schemes. Having said that, there has been strong communication between the regulator and Carillion since the middle of last year, when a profit warning was announced. But of course, a profit warning is a warning as opposed to a transaction, so it was not necessarily a sign that the company overall was in such difficulty.

It is important to stress that we are very keen to strengthen the powers but, at the same time, we need to ensure that the new measures we introduce build on existing measures that to a large extent have worked extremely well since 2004, as I said before. However, we want to strengthen the Pensions Regulator’s anti-avoidance framework and information-gathering powers.

I am afraid that as yet, I cannot be certain about when legislation will be forthcoming. Obviously, we will look forward to and welcome the consultations and responses to the White Paper.