Clause 20 - Duty to set targets for collective benefits

Part of Pension Schemes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 30th October 2014.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 12:00 pm, 30th October 2014

I was looking forward to hearing what everyone else on the Committee thought, but let me give it a quick go. Am I spending too much time with  actuaries, as I have been accused of doing? It is important to understand what the role of actuaries is and is not. The trustees or scheme managers—I will say “trustees” as shorthand—act on behalf of scheme members. They are expected to ensure that the scheme follows its rules. They obviously must take action if the data presented to them show that the scheme is not on course to hit its probability. That is what the trustees do. They take expert actuarial advice. The actuary might also say, “You are going to be outside your probability range, but there is a range of things you could do.” They could say that increasing employee contributions would have a certain effect on probability, or changing the investment mix to reduce risk would have another. The trustees will make the decisions, having been informed by expert advice on the different options and how they would feed through into the probability. That seems a sensible division of labour. The experts will crunch the numbers and tell the trustees how things stand and the implications of different choices, but the trustees will make the decision.